The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The monarch's title is "King" (male) or "Queen" (female). The current monarch and head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, ascended the throne on the death of her father, King George VI, on 6 February 1952.
The monarch and his or her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial, diplomatic and representational duties. As the monarchy is constitutional, the monarch is limited to non-partisan functions such as bestowing honours and appointing the Prime Minister. The monarch is, by tradition, commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces. Though the ultimate formal executive authority over the government of the United Kingdom is still by and through the monarch's royal prerogative, these powers may only be used according to laws enacted in Parliament and, in practice, within the constraints of convention and precedent.
The British monarchy traces its origins from the petty kingdoms of early medieval Scotland and Anglo-Saxon England, which consolidated into the kingdoms of England and Scotland by the 10th century AD. In 1066, the last crowned Anglo-Saxon monarch, Harold II, was defeated and killed during the Norman conquest of England and the English monarchy passed to the Normans' victorious leader, William the Conqueror, and his descendants.
In the 13th century, Wales, as a principality, became a client state of the English kingdom, while the ''Magna Carta'' began a process of reducing the English monarch's political powers.
From 1603, when the Scottish monarch King James VI inherited the English throne as James I, both the English and Scottish kingdoms were ruled by a single sovereign. From 1649 to 1660, the tradition of monarchy was broken by the republican Commonwealth of England, which followed the War of the Three Kingdoms. The Act of Settlement 1701, which is still in force, excluded Roman Catholics, or those who marry Catholics, from succession to the English throne. In 1707, the kingdoms of England and Scotland were merged to create the Kingdom of Great Britain, and in 1801, the Kingdom of Ireland joined to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The British monarch became nominal head of the vast British Empire, which covered a quarter of the world's surface at its greatest extent in 1921.
In the 1920s, five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the Union as the Irish Free State, and the Balfour Declaration recognised the evolution of the dominions of the empire into separate, self-governing countries within a Commonwealth of Nations. After the Second World War, the vast majority of British colonies and territories became independent, effectively bringing the empire to an end. George VI and his successor, Elizabeth II, adopted the title Head of the Commonwealth as a symbol of the free association of its independent member states.
The United Kingdom and fifteen other Commonwealth monarchies that share the same person as their monarch are called Commonwealth realms. The terms ''British monarchy'' and ''British monarch'' are frequently still employed in reference to the shared individual and institution; however, each country is sovereign and independent of the others, and the monarch has a different, specific, and official national title and style for each realm.
== Constitutional role ==
In the uncodified Constitution of the United Kingdom, the Monarch (otherwise referred to as the Sovereign or "His/Her Majesty", abbreviated H.M.) is the Head of State. Oaths of allegiance are made to the Queen and her lawful successors.〔e.g. 〕 ''God Save the Queen'' (or ''God Save the King'') is the British national anthem, and the monarch appears on postage stamps, coins and banknotes.
The Monarch takes little direct part in Government. The decisions to exercise sovereign powers are delegated from the Monarch, either by statute or by convention, to Ministers or officers of the Crown, or other public bodies, exclusive of the Monarch personally. Thus the acts of state done in the name of the Crown, such as Crown Appointments,〔Crown Appointments Act 1661 c.6〕 even if personally performed by the Monarch, such as the Queen's Speech and the State Opening of Parliament, depend upon decisions made elsewhere:
* Legislative power is exercised by the Queen-in-Parliament, by and with the advice and consent of Parliament, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
* Executive power is exercised by Her Majesty's Government, which comprises Ministers, primarily the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, which is technically a committee of the Privy Council. They have the direction of the Armed Forces of the Crown, the Civil Service and other Crown Servants such as the Diplomatic and Secret Services (the Queen receives certain foreign intelligence reports before the Prime Minister does〔"In London, the revelations from (Soviet defector Vladimir ) Pasechnik were summarized into a quick note for the Joint Intelligence Committee. The first recipient of such reports is always Her Majesty, The Queen. The second is the prime minister, who at the time was () Thatcher." Hoffman, David E. (Emanuel), ''The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy'' (N.Y.: Doubleday, 1st ed. (printing? ) (ISBN 978-0-385-52437-7) 2009), p. 336 (author contributing editor & formerly U.S. White House, diplomatic, & Jerusalem correspondent, Moscow bureau chief, & foreign news asst. managing editor for ''The Wash. Post'').〕).
* Judicial power is vested in the Judiciary, who by constitution and statute〔s3. Constitutional Reform Act 2005〕 have judicial independence of the Government.
* The Church of England, of which the Monarch is the head, has its own legislative, judicial and executive structures.
* Powers independent of government are legally granted to other public bodies by statute or statutory instrument such as an Order in Council, Royal Commission or otherwise.
The Sovereign's role as a constitutional monarch is largely limited to non-partisan functions, such as granting honours. This role has been recognised since the 19th century. The constitutional writer Walter Bagehot identified the monarchy in 1867 as the "dignified part" rather than the "efficient part" of government.〔Bagehot, p. 9.〕
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