NEW YORK, July 25, 2013 — The Prince of Cambridge, George Alexander Louis, the son of Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, was born as an international figure Monday. The newborn prince will someday be king, yet many believe that the duties of a monarch are similar to the tasks of a socialite – going to events, hosting special occasions and attracting media attention. By this logic, Kim Kardashian should be comparable to Prince George’s great grandmother Queen Elizabeth II- a notion that is factually false and emotionally appalling to many Brits. A closer look at the responsibilities of a British monarch proves that the role has more substance.
Today a monarch lacks the political might than in the past. Nevertheless, when Prince George becomes King George he will be the Sovereign of the United Kingdom as well as 15 Commonwealth realms, such as Australia, Canada and Jamaica.
As a leader of 16 nations, at first it is puzzling that a monarch possesses limited authority.
Britain is ruled by a constitutional monarchy where a king or queen cannot pass legislation, but act as Head of State and Head of the Nation. By contrast, in an absolute monarchy, a king or queen assumes all government control, but the British ended that type of rule in the 17th century. After this time and until the 20th century, “the monarch ruled with an iron rod, and politicians were subservient to the Crown” according to Dr. James D. Boys, Visiting Fellow at King’s College London.
The dual role as Head of State and Head of the Nation indicates formal governmental responsibilities and less formal ceremonial acts of service respectively.
Head of State
As Head of State, a monarch is involved in public affairs, official appointments and diplomacy.
Queen Elizabeth’s most notable task is the opening of parliament, which starts the new legislative session for the year. The ceremony is a lavish affair that sets the political agenda. When the Queen opened parliament in May of this year, she said that the new immigration policy would “ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deters those who will not.”
The Queen’s involvement with public policy also involves UK government ministers and Commonwealth officials sending reports for her signature. Yet some argue that matters of state business are just ceremonial.
Queen Elizabeth is the first monarch in more than 100 years to attend a Cabinet meeting, the most senior government decision making body. One reason for the absence is that a monarch must stay neutral from politics.
Staying away from the Cabinet does not mean that the monarch is on the outside of day to day state affairs. Dr. Boys explains, “the [Prime Minister] meets with the monarch every week to discuss events. These meetings are strictly private, but it is clear that this is a vital part of political life, despite it happening behind closed doors.” The weekly meetings is an obligation of the Prime Minister to report to the Queen.
A monarch has the power to appoint the Prime Minister after a general election and to dissolve Parliament at the Prime Minister’s request. Queen Elizabeth, like the Prime Minister, meets with Heads of States, foreign ambassadors and high commissioners at home and abroad to support friendly political and economic relations.
When Prince George becomes Head of State, he will also govern over the British Armed Forces and the Church of England, known as the Anglican Church. He will have the authority to officially declare and end wars. As the leader of the Church, he will appoint archbishops and bishops upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister.
Head of Nation
As Head of Nation a monarch serves to be the embodiment of national identity, unity and stability. It is a symbolic role that entails cultural and social tasks.
With representing the UK and the Commonwealth as monarch, Prince George can look forward to ceremonies of celebration and commermoration.
Queen Elizabeth made a surprising splash at the London 2012 Olympics when she opened the ceremonies with starring in short film with James Bond played by Daniel Craig. Bond escorted the Queen from Buckingham Palace to the Olympics in a helicopter where the two jumped out midair with parachutes to descend to the stadium.
On Remembrance Day, similar to Veteran’s Day in the United States which is also on November 11, the monarch hosts a ceremonial tribute.
Life of a prince in waiting
Since Prince George is third in line to the British throne, he will have ample time to be groomed to become a monarch. It may be 50 to 60 years before he becomes a king, once his grandfather Prince Charles and father Prince William either pass away or abdicates.
In the meantime Dr. Boys expects, “it will be interesting to see what role George gets to play… He will doubtless follow in royal tradition and attend excellent preparatory schools, probably Eton near the royal estate at Windsor, before going on to university and then some sort of military service. That will take him into his mid-20s. He will doubtless work with a number of charities, perhaps some of those championed by his father and grandmother (the late, Diana, Princess of Wales).”
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