What Is a Constitutional Monarchy?

LONDON – A theme that was the focus of King Charles III Addressing the British Parliament on Monday, and, many experts would say, virtually all of his public statements and actions since Queen Elizabeth’s death: in favor of Britain’s constitutional monarchy system.

He concluded his speech by reiterating his mother’s promise to “uphold the precious principles of the constitutional government at the heart of our nation” and by vowing to follow her example.

For some foreign observers, that has raised the question: How can you have a constitutional monarchy when you don’t have a written Constitution?

While England does not have a constitutional document like the one ratified by the United States in 1788 – or rejected by Chilean voters earlier this month – it still has laws and carefully documented traditions that together form a Constitution, a Constitution that binds the king.

These rules have been accumulated over centuries of legislation and a large body of surrounding conventions. (An explanation of the British constitutional monarchy provided by the House of Lords . Library began with the Magna Carta in 1215, and the initial restrictions on royal power, and continued despite a thick layer of legal character since 1701, when Parliament intervened in the succession of royalty.)

Together, they make the king a constitutional monarch: the embodiment of power and statehood with no individual public role in politics, and tight ties even to the influence of private.

Charles acknowledged those conventions to legislators by beginning by praising “important parliamentary traditions”, associating them with the medieval wooden roof of Westminster Hall, the parliament building he built. spoke.

The constitutional tradition has met with some tension in Parliament in recent years, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson seeks to pass his bill on leaving the European Union. Once using executive power, Parliamentary suspension lasts a weekhas received criticism from the British Supreme Court.

“Our constitution is fundamentally dependent on British sentiments of politeness and fairness, and it assumes that those in high office will respect conventions, precedents and failed rules. literature,” Professor Meg Russell, Director of the Constitutional Unit at University College London, told The Times in 2019.

In contrast, the queen maintains the monarchy’s popularity in part by what her son described to lawmakers on Monday as “unsurpassed devotion” to the tradition of restraint.

That is one reason that Charles raised eyebrows in his long decades as the Prince of Wales. He openly advocates for what may seem like a set of innocuous causes: the environment, organic farming, complementary medicine, traditional architecture. He touched on this issue in his first time speaking as monarch last week, said: “I will no longer be able to devote much of my time and energy to charities and issues that I care deeply about.”

He would leave all of that, he said, “in the trusted hands of someone else.” After his mother’s example, that may be what the British Constitution requires.

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