The surprising privileges of the Queen

As well as her choice of grand residences and an army of staff to assist her, the Queen also enjoys some more unusual privileges and powers.

Can the Queen remove the prime minister

On the surface, the Queen’s role in regard to politics and the government is to maintain a position of neutrality. She does still have important ceremonial roles including opening each new session of parliament and granting Royal Assent to legislation. She also keeps in close contact with the prime minister through a private weekly meeting in an Audience room in her apartments. Somewhat confusingly, the Queen does have the legal right, but not the authority, to remove the prime minister as this is in the hands of parliament. If she were to exercise this power, the resulting constitutional crisis would likely spell the end for the monarchy.

Above the law

In theory, the Queen could undertake a criminal rampage with no legal repercussions. As head of state, she ‘cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution’. Furthermore, the Queen can grant a royal pardon to anyone convicted of a crime – a power she applied for a posthumous pardon of the World War II codebreaker Alan Turing in 2013. She also has the legal right to seize and confiscate any land within her realm and incorporate it, without compensation, into the Crown Estates. If she also happened to be in the market for a new boat, she could take her pick from any vessel sailing within UK territorial waters.

Dominion over dolphins

Continuing the aquatic theme, the Queen still benefits from a law passed in 1324 during the reign of Edward II stating that the monarch is allowed to claim all whales, sturgeons, porpoises and dolphins within three miles of England’s shoreline. The British Crown also enjoys ownership of all unmarked Mute Swans in British open water, with a tradition known as ‘swan upping’ taking place every year on the River Thames. During the event, the swans are rounded up, caught, ringed and then released. The main purpose is to conduct a census and to check on the health of the birds. Now a protected species, swans were, historically, a highly desirable food for banquets, and there were strict penalties for anyone who harmed them or stole their eggs.

The power to declare war

As Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces, the Queen enjoys supreme command of the military. Although she has the right to issue orders personally, this authority is delegated by the Queen to her commanders in the field. She also has the power to commit British troops to an armed conflict by using the powers of the Royal Prerogative. Formerly, the British Royal Family exercised these powers through the monarch on his or her own initiative, but since the 19th century, the advice of the prime minister or the cabinet has been required in order for prerogative orders to be executed. With this being the case, the Queen’s practical political involvement has never exceeded an adept wielding of soft power.