‘I’d be drawing up resignation letters!’ Harry & Andrew Counsellor of State roles blasted

Prince Harry is seeking 'approval' from William says Royal Editor

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Leading royal biographer Andrew Morton expressed his surprise at seeing the Dukes of York and Sussex retaining the position of Counsellors of State despite no longer being full-time working royals. The author of the newly-released biography The Queen told Express.co.uk: “The one thing I am very surprised about is that Prince Harry and Prince Andrew, as non-working royals, not allowed on the balcony for the Queen’s Jubilee, are still Counsellors of State.

“Given the fact that the Queen has been regularly incapacitated, given the fact that Prince Charles and Prince William travel abroad to support the Crown, there will come a point in the not too distant future where there may be a necessity for Counsellors of State and William and Charles are out of the country.

“So it would be left to Harry and Andrew, which is not what you want.

“If I was Buckingham Palace now I’d be drawing up their resignation letters.”

Mr Morton, who famously penned in 1992 a groundbreaking biography of Princess Diana while being secretly helped by the Princess of Wales, said it is “quite feasible” to have both William and Charles at the same time outside of the country for royal duties, given their prominent position within the Firm and the reduced number of working royals able to travel abroad to represent the Queen. 

A similar scenario, he said, would currently trigger the drafting of the other two Counsellors of State if the Queen was incapacitated to undertake her official duties.

This, Mr Morton said, would be “just a ludicrous state of affairs”.

According to the rule established in the Regency Act 1937, two or more Counsellors step in when the monarch can’t undertake duties on a temporary basis due to illness or absence abroad.

These representatives of the sovereign are appointed by Letters Patent to act in Her Majesty’s place. 

By law, appointed as Counsellors are the sovereign’s spouse and the next four people in the line of succession to the throne aged over 21.

While members of the Royal Family can be Counsellors regardless of their status within the Firm, to be eligible for the role they must be domiciled in the UK and not disqualified from becoming monarch.

This means the current Counsellors of State are Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry and Prince Andrew.

The Duke of Sussex, who is sixth-in-line, stopped being a working member of the Firm at the end of March 2020, just a few days before he relocated with his family to California. 

While he and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, have established their new lives in the States, the Duke is still a Counsellor as he is believed not to have lost his domicile in the UK as he reportedly renewed his lease for Frogmore Cottage, the Sussexes’ official residence in Britain, in March.

Prince Andrew, who is ninth-in-line, announced in November 2019 that he would temporarily step back from public duties, in the wake of his interview with Emily Maitlis focused on his association with Jeffrey Epstein.

The Duke of York returned his military and royal patronages to the Queen in January this year, and Buckingham Palace announced in a statement he would continue not to undertake official engagements.

Following the Dukes’ decisions to step down, the Royal Family can currently count on 11 working members of the Firm able to support the Queen and the Crown through duties and engagements.    

As they are no longer considered working royals, Harry and Andrew can still be Counsellors but were not invited to watch the RAF flypast from the Buckingham Palace balcony alongside the Queen on June 2, the first day of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

The removal of one or more people from the position of Counsellors of State requires legislation.

The Queen Mother was reinstated as a Counsellor with the Regency Act 1953, one year after she had lost her eligibility for the role due to becoming a widow.

The next royal eligible to become a Counsellor of State is Princess Beatrice, who is 10th in the line of succession to the throne.   

Much like her sister Princess Eugenie, Beatrice is not a working member of the Firm and has a career of her own.

Once Prince Charles accedes to the throne, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will also take the title of Counsellor as the consort of the sovereign.

The last time Her Majesty had to issue a Letters Patent to have two Counsellors replace her was in May, when due to her episodic mobility issues she skipped the State Opening of Parliament and tasked the Prince of Wales to read the Queen’s Speech while Prince William looked on.

Counsellors are authorised to carry out most of the official duties of the sovereign, including attending Privy Council meetings, signing routine documents and receiving the credentials of new ambassadors to the UK.

Among the core constitutional duties that can’t be delegated to these title holders are Commonwealth matters, the creation of peers and the appointment of a Prime Minister.

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