Queen's Speech: Prince Charles addresses House of Lords
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Prince Charles made history on Tuesday when he opened the new session of Parliament alongside the Duke of Cambridge. The heir to the throne stood in for the 96-year-old monarch who was unable to attend due to ongoing mobility issues.
If the monarch is unable to carry out official duties, which includes attending the State Opening of Parliament, then under the Regency Act she is able to appoint Counsellors of State to attend on her behalf.
By law, Counsellors of State include the sovereign’s spouse and the next four people in the line of succession who are over the age of 21.
Currently, these are Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry and Prince Andrew.
However, the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of York are no longer working members of the Royal Family.
Harry stood down as a senior royal in 2020 alongside his wife Meghan Markle.
Andrew was forced to step down and to stop using his HRH title after a historic sexual assault allegation was levied against him by Virginia Guiffre in the US.
The prince has repeatedly and strenuously denied the allegation and earlier this year settled the civil case for an undisclosed amount but has stressed this is not an admission of guilt.
Royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams said the Royal Family needed to quickly appoint a fifth Counsellor of State to make sure that, in the event both Prince Charles and Prince William are unavailable, another working royal could be called upon.
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He told i: “The dangerous point is the Counsellors of State, there’s Charles and William but there’s also Harry and Andrew.”
Mr Fitzwilliams said it was most unlikely Andrew or Harry could ever be called upon to delegate for the Queen given the “exceptional circumstances” in place with Prince Harry abroad and Prince Andrew “in disgrace”.
He added that the most sensible thing to do would be to add an extra Counsellor of State.
Such a precedent was set in 1953 when Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was added as a Counsellor of State after Parliament passed the 1953 Regency Act.
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Robert Hazell, Professor of Government and the Constitution at University College London, told LBC that Harry and Andrew “might not be considered suitable” to deputise for the Queen.
He explained that changes to Counsellors of State would require an amendment to the Regency Acts but this was likely to happen in the next reign.
However, he said there was no need to “dust down” the Regency Acts of 1937 and 1953 which provide for circumstances when the monarch is temporarily or seriously incapacitated.
Former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond said she could not see the Queen carrying out a large, set piece ceremony such as the State Opening of Parliament again.
She added that thanks to modern technology the Queen can remain in charge and that she has a “pretty full” diary this week.
On whether she sees a time when Charles will become regent, Ms Bond said: “I don’t as long as the Queen’s mental ability stays as strong as it is.
“I see no reason that she would want to invoke – or anybody would want to invoke – that (Regency) Act. I don’t think we’re talking abdication, I don’t think we’re talking permanent regency, but I do think we’re talking a lot more of what we saw today.
“We’re deep in a period now of transition. People are getting used to the idea of King Charles.
“We can foresee very clearly now a King Charles.”
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