|HM The Queen in Parliament|
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 countries that support each other and work together towards shared goals in democracy and development. In 2009, the Commonwealth reaffirmed certain core values and principles including commitments to democracy. human rights, the separation of powers and the rule of law. Commonwealth Heads of Government have recently met in Australia and agreed to a charter - to be approved in 2012 - adopting a recommendation of an Eminent Persons Group report - "A Commonwealth of the People - Time for urgent reform."
One interesting development was the agreement reached between 16 States which have H.M. The Queen as Head of State that the succession to the Crown will no longer be based on the common law principle of male primogeniture - see No.10 website for more details. The rule of law excluding
from the throne anyone married to a Roman Catholic will also be abolished though the monarch personally will have to be in communion with the Church of England (as Supreme Governor of that Church).
Legislation will be required to make these changes. A list of legislation requiring amendment is being drawn up and, according to No.10, the list includes the Bill of Rights, the Coronation Oath Act, the Act of Settlement, the Act of Union with Scotland, the Accession Declaration Act, Princess Sophia’s Precedence Act, Royal Marriages Act 1772, the Union with Ireland Act and the Regency Act. The prohibition on marriage to a Roman Catholic is to be found in the Act of Settlement 1700. This Act settled the throne on Sophia, Electress of Hanover - granddaughter of James I of England and VI of Scotland) and her Protestant heirs. Sophia died before Queen Anne and the succession therefore passed to her son, George, Elector of Hanover, who in 1714 became King George I. The Act was later extended to Scotland as a result of the Treaty of Union enacted in the Acts of Union of 1707.
Another "Royal" story in the media is revelation that the government has had to seek the consent of HRH Prince Charles to certain legislation - The Guardian 31st October 2011 - "Prince Charles offered veto over 12 government bills since 2005." It is a matter of parliamentary practice to obtain the consent of either the Queen or the Prince of Wales if a bill will affect the royal prerogative powers or their private interests. This is explained by lawyer Daniel Greensberg in The Guardian - "Prince Charles and the ancient charter that calls for his consent to certain bills." As Mr Greensberg explains, "consent" differs from the "Royal Assent" required by law before a bill converts into an Act."
Interestingly, the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 - (discussed here) - involved amending the law relating to the Dissolution of Parliament - (see the 2011 Act s.3). The Queen gave a consent to the change as noted in the second reading debate in the House of Lords where the Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness) said:
It is perhaps surprising that individuals - no matter how eminent - are asked to consent to certain legislative changes. Such "privilege" seems to be just as out-of-date in modern times as the restriction on the monarch marrying a Roman Catholic.
The Duchy of Cornwall is one of two surviving "Royal Duchies." The other is the Duchy of Lancaster. How the Duchy of Cornwall is administered may be seen on the Duchy website under "Management and Finances."
Note: The type of extensive protection given to "Crown" and Duchy of Cornwall rights can be seen in section 41 of the Tamar Bridge Act 1998. (See also Tamar Bridge and The Guardian 31st October - "Prince Charles's veto shows the duchy is no ordinary private estate.")
See the interesting article by David Hart QC on UK Human Rights blog - "Prince Charles, oysters and environmental information."