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Since the Queen came to the throne in 1952 her reign has seen the British monarchy adapt to major changes in Britain's position in the world and in British Society. Most of the dependencies over which she reigned on her accession have become independent members of the Commonwealth of which she is Head, and many of those members continue to recognise her as head of State. Modern communications enable the queen and the Royal family to make more overseas visits than ever before. In Britain television has brought them much closer to the people, and meetings with ordinary men and women at home and abroad have accelerated the trend towards making the British monarchy a less aloof institution, while still evoking the national memory of centuries of history. The Queen personifies both national and Commonwealth unity, and the entire Royal family play a supporting role undertaking arduous programmes. A combination of the formal and the informal is a special feature of today's monarchy, combining traditional pomp and ceremony with direct contact with the people from all walks of life in their towns or at work.

Both in Britain and during Commonwealth tours, "Walk-abouts" -mingling with the crowds - have become a popular feature. Royal jubilees, birthdays and weddings provide opportunities for a practical affirmation of the close and affectionate relationship between the monarchy and the people.

The development of the monarchy during the Queen's reign is only the most recent example of its long evolution in the light of changing circumstances. It is the oldest secular institution in Britain, going back to at least the 9th century. The Queen can trace her descent from King Egbert who united all England under his sovereignty in 829. The monarchy antedates Parliament by 4 centuries and the law courts by 3. The hereditary principle has always been preserved. For centuries the Monarch personally exercised supreme executive, legislative and judicial power, but with the growth of Parliament and the courts, the direct exercise of these functions gradually decreased. The 17th century struggle between Crown and Parliament led, in 1688-1689, to the establishment of a limited constitutional monarchy.

The monarch throughout most of the 18th century appointed and dismissed ministers. By the end of the 19th century with the establishment of responsible government and of the modern party system, the monarch's active participation in politics has become minimal.

Responsible government in Britain has 2 main elements: ministers are responsible to Parliament in that they cannot govern without the support of an elected majority; and they are responsible for the advice they render to the Queen and therefore, for any action she may take. Political decisions are taken by the ministers and the Queen is left free to perform the functions of an impartial head of state.

When the Queen was born on the 21st of April, 1926, her grandfather, King George V, was on the throne, and her uncle was his heir. She was the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York and was christened in the Chapel of Buckingham Palace, being given the name Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. The death of her grandfather and the abdication of her uncle (King Edward VIII) brought her father to the throne as King George VI and she became Heiress Presumptive. As a child her studies were extended to include lessons on constitutional history and law, while she also studied art and music. In addition she learned to ride and acquired her enthusiasm for horses. As she grew older she began to take part in public life making her first broadcast at the age of 14. Early in 1945 she became a subaltern in the Auxiliary Territorial Services and by the end of the war had reached the rank of Junior Commander.

The announcement of the engagement of Princess Elizabeth to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, the son of Prince Andrew of Greece and one of Queen Victoria's great-grandsons (now Philip, Duke of Edinburgh) whom the Princess had known for many years, was made in 1947. Their wedding took place in Westminster Abbey in November, 1947. She came to the throne on 6 February, 1952 and was crowned on 2 June, 1953. Since then she has undertaken numerous tours abroad and visits throughout UK to fulfil engagements in connection with agriculture, industry, education, the arts, medicine, sport and as a means of keeping in touch with new developments in these fields.

The Queen is an owner and breeder of thoroughbred horses and often goes to race meetings to watch her horses run. She is also a frequent visitor to equestrian events.

The Duke of Edinburgh was born in 1921, served at sea throughout the war, by the end of which he was a Lieutenant. He has played an outstanding part in the nation's life and holds many important service appointments and acts as patron or president of a large number of organizations. In particular he interests himself in scientific and technological research and development, in the encouragement of sport, the welfare of young people. A keen sportsman, he played polo regularly and has been President of the International Equestrian Federation since 1964.

The Queen's heir is Charles, Prince of Wales, born in 1948 and educated at Gordonstown, at Geelong Grammar School in Australia, at Trinity College, Cambridge and at the University College of Wales.

Since 1977 he has been pursuing a programme of familiarisation with various aspects of public life in Britain in addition to his normal round of royal duties.

The Crown is rested in the Queen, but in general its functions are exercised by ministers responsible to Parliament. The Queen reigns but does not rule. The UK is governed by Her Majesty's Government in the name of the Queen. The

Queen summons, prorogues and dissolves Parliament. She opens the new session with a speech from the throne outlining her Government's programme. When she is unable to be present, the Queen's speech is read by the Lord Chancellor. Before a bill which has passed all the stages in both Houses of Parliament becomes law, it must receive Royal Assent.

As the "fountain of justice" the Queen can, on ministerial advice, pardon or show mercy to those convicted of crimes. As the "fountain of honour" the Queen confers peerages, knighthoods and other honours. She makes appointments to many important state offices. On the advice of the Prime Minister she appoints, dismisses government ministers, judges, members of diplomatic corps, colonial officers. As supreme Governor of the established Church of England she makes appointments to its bishoprics.

In the sphere international affairs the Queen has the power to conclude treaties, to declare war, to make peace, to recognise foreign states and governments, to annex and cede territory.

One important function is appointing the Prime Minister. By convention the Queen invites the leader of the party which commands a majority in the House of Commons to form a government. The Queen has "the right to be consulted, to encourage, to warn". The Queen's closest official contacts are with the Prime Minister (who has an audience of the Queen on average once a week when the Queen is in London).

The Queen is the living symbol of national unity.


Reference Notes

Date: 2015-04-19; view: 1556

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