Queen’s Birthday: Eight of Elizabeth II’s Strangest Powers And Privileges

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From appointing a troupe of knights to being exempt from Freedom of Information requests, the Queen possesses a number of bizarre and mind-boggling privileges

She isn’t expected to give evidence in court because all prosecutions are carried out in the name of the Sovereign Getty Images/WPA Pool

It goes without saying that Queen Elizabeth II lives something of a fairy-tale existence. From having her own hoard of knights to holding dominion over every British swan in the country, the day-to-day life of Her Royal Highness comprises of more perks and privileges than the most of us can fathom.

While Elizabeth II might choose to spend much of her time luxuriating in her 700-room-palace choosing gaudy brightly coloured hats and playing fetch with her corgis, she could technically go out and fire the entirety of the Australian government. In other words, the Queen’s age-old powers and secret privileges are about far more than wealth or affluence.

Here are a selection of the things the Queen can do which no-one else can:

She is above the law

The Queen is above and beyond the law in the most literal sense of the idiom. Not only is she immune from prosecution, she isn’t expected to give evidence in court because all prosecutions are carried out in the name of the Sovereign.

The Queen is required to turn a bill into law

Once a bill has worked its way through all the various stages of parliament, the Queen’s consent is necessary to convert the bill into an Act of Parliament. This is known as “Royal Assent”. A British Monarch hasn’t declined to sign a bill into in law since Queen Anne way back in 1708.

She appoints knights

Imagine having a reserve of knights in shining armour at your beck and call. While the knights our Queen appoints with her silver sword do not look like your typical King Arthur types, they are knights all the same. The Queen has the power to appoint both Knights and Lords – an act she carries out face-to-face in the flesh. Sir Terry Wogan and Sir Terry Pratchett are two of these knights. Elizabeth II is advised by the Prime Minister and others in her appointments.

Her Majesty is exempt from Freedom of Information requests

Brought in by Tony Blair in 2000, the Freedom of Information Act created a public right of access to information held by public authorities. Alas, the only public body exempt from this is the Royal Family.
The Queen has a weekly chinwag with the Prime Minister

While most of us common folk have a weekly catch-up with a pal, the Queen meets the Prime Minister every week. However it’s impossible to ever know what is really said in the weekly meetings because no written record is made of the private meeting and both parties are obliged to ensure the information is never disclosed.

She doesn’t have to pay tax

The Queen does not have to pay tax but is that generous that she has been voluntarily paying income tax and capital gains tax since 1992. Thanks ma’am.

The Queen owns all the swans 

This rather curious tradition dates all the way back to the twelfth century and was formalised with a Royal Charter of Edward IV passed in 1482. The Queen technically owns all unmarked swans in open water in the UK. She also has an officially-appointed Swan Keeper whom dispatches swans all over the world as gifts sent in the Queens name.

She can sack the entire Australian government

Being the head of state in Australia, Her Majesty could technically give the whole Australian government the bullet if it took her fancy.


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