Prince Charles exercises a secret veto over a wide swath of UK legislation

UK government ministers have been secretly offering Prince Charles a veto over proposed legislation since 2005, under a little-known law that gives the prince the right to silently kill or amend legislation if it might negatively affect his interests. The legislation the prince was consulted upon includes bills on the Olympics, road safety and gambling. No one knows the full extent of these consultations, nor what changes the prince made to the legislation before it went to Parliament. Among the prince's assets are the Duchy of Cornwall, worth £700m, and he received £18m/year in income.

When I took my "Life in the UK" test before becoming a permanent resident, I was struck by the incoherence of the section on the UK's "unwritten constitution," which, to my Canadian eyes, seemed to suggest that the UK didn't really have a constitution, just a mismash of badly articulated principles that have to be tediously litigated and contested every time they collide. Now that I'm a British citizen, it becomes clearer and clearer that this is, indeed, the case.

MPs and peers called for the immediate publication of details about the application of the prince's powers which have fuelled concern over his alleged meddling in British politics. "If princes and paupers are to live as equals in a modern Britain, anyone who enjoys exceptional influence or veto should exercise it with complete transparency," said Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives in Cornwall. "The duchy asserts that it is merely a private estate. Most people will be astonished to learn that it appears to have effective powers of veto over the government."

"We should know why he is being asked and the government should publish the answers," said Lord Berkeley, who was last month told to seek Charles' consent on a marine navigation bill. "If he is given these powers purely because he owns land in Cornwall it is pretty stupid. What about the other landowners who must also be affected by changes to legislation?"

Revelations about Charles' power of consent come amid continued concern that the heir to the throne may be overstepping his constitutional role by lobbying ministers directly and through his charities on pet concerns such as traditional architecture and the environment.

Prince Charles has been offered a veto over 12 government bills since 2005

(Image: Prince Charles, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from victoriajohnsonphotography's photostream)


  1. Serious questions need asking about this. This can’t be allowed to continue. I didn’t know this power existed and I’ve studied politics for years. I’m happy we have an uncodified constitution and not a single document from 200 years ago which enshrines rights like gun ownership. But we do need constitutional reform. 

  2. England has a mish mash of a constitution because it’s been making it up as it goes along for hundreds of years and there is absolutely nothing wrong with tediously litigating them time and time again, since that self same adaptability is why they still have a country after hundreds of years. An absolute constitution is the inevitable downfall of any society since the changing nature of the world will inevtiably outstrip it’s ability to adapt. ‘ This’ll do for now’  is a good philosophy for a society to live by.

    Though, on the Prince Charles thing, while it’s not exactly the greatest thing, involves Prince Charles, who is essentially a very wealthy aging hippy. I do not exactly see him being the boot on the neck.

    1. His father is a noted bigot and his son thought it would be funny to dress up as a Nazi. He’s been insanely coddled his entire life. Just about the only decision he’s ever visibly made was to let himself be pressured into a horribly mismatched and doomed marriage, in which he apparently displayed little interest. The only serious undertakings he’s ever had have been amateur and splenetic architecture criticism, encouragement of organic farming, and the endorsement of a line of organically produced biscuits marketed to wealthy self-satisfied people like himself. I’m not sure that “very wealthy aging hippy” is a particularly apt description. I’ve met a fair number of aging hippies who were at least quite comfortable, if not actually wealthy, and on their worst days I’d give any of them veto power in preference to Prince Chuck.

      1. Splenetic, eh? Thanks for the new word.

        Every time I come across old buggerlugs now, I can’t help thinking of him as Ben Elton wrote him in Chart Throb.

      2. Jeeze, don’t start the whole Nazi thing again, I’m pretty sure that was a campaign by the Daily Mail to get Britain angry, like they do every day.

        It wasn’t ‘dress up as your hero’ day, it was Halloween, when people dress as serial killers and the like – and considering we were parodying the Nazi’s DURING the war, I don’t see why we’d become MORE sensitive about them nearly a hundred years later.  That’s really not the British spirit.

        I’m still not even sure what the anger was about.  People need to lighten up.

      3. What really blows in my mind is that the man is apparently a fervent proponent of homeopathy, which I think we can all agree needs to be properly tossed aside as soon as possible.

      4. His father is a noted bigot and his son thought it would be funny to dress up as a Nazi.

        Are we blaming people for the actions of their parents and children now? Are we going to go back to jailing or executing the families of criminals as well?

        1. No, I’m not saying these things justify punishing Chuck. Heck, I didn’t even call for punishment for Prince Philip or for Prince Harry. it’s just that I was replying to someone’s comment putting forward the notion that Chuck is a nice, harmless, perfectly lovable aging hippy. There isn’t much evidence for this notion from what is known of his life or interests, and his family environment from birth and the child he raised rather suggest this is unlikely to be the case.

    2. The “changing nature of the world” has resulted in the UK suspension of habeas corpus and the principle of particularised suspicion as a requisite for stop-and-search. There are absolutes, such as the principle of due process, the right to face your accuser, and the rule of law that should be enshrined as hard lines that no democratic government can simply overturn.

      The US constitution has a mechanism for amendment, one that sets a deliberately high bar. It isn’t rigid, merely well-defended. The absence of agreed-upon minimal standards creates a playing field where powerful and rich people get all the advantages, because they get to declare their interests to be “the constitution.”

    3. Boot on the neck? Be more worried about someone with a private estate making changes or vetoes to laws that impact him on a financial level. Because of his birth right and royal blood. If you think that’s cool, than great. 

  3. Mr. Doctorow, I’m actually a little disappointed.  Because you are an author, I would expect you to know the difference between “affect” and “effect.”  Sadly, this is not the first such error I have seen…

    OR, I don’t know.  maybe that passes for writing on that side of the Atlantic.  I suppose it is entirely possible that it is a cultural thing, because we really don’t speak the Queen’s English on this side.

    Let me know!  I don’t want to be the stupid oaf I am sure I appear to be!

    1. Mr Ford, there is no error. In any case, the shaded text is quoted from an article in The Guardian, as the link below it shows.

    2. The correct term isn’t “stupid oaf,” it’s “pedantic concern troll.”

      IOW: “Shock horror typo terrifies S Ford into panic over regional usage variations, news at 11.”

    3. Right now the post says “affect” which is the correct form
      Please clarify – has Cory corrected it from “effect”, or are you wrong?

      PS: Why has this post NOT been removed? Every other comment I made on the affect/effect side-issue (e.g. about a typo not being the same as incorrect usage, and wondering who was being the more hysterical, and explaining why pointing out incorrect usage has value, whilst it is only the MANNER of the pointing out that may or may not qualify as trollism) has failed to appear here. So why is this one still here?

  4. There are people who have that kind of veto power over legistlation in the US too!

    We call them lobbyists.

  5. The U.S. has a constitution and is no better off.  Millions of dollars are spent on litigation and constant re-interpretation of these so-called “constitutional rights” and the outcomes are as varied and contradictory as the judges making them.   

    The U.S. constitution appears to be a “suggestion” of rights rather than actual rights which, apparently, can be taken away at any time by, for example, the everyday policeman during a demonstration, congress enacting laws that essentially strip them away or a president that starts a war based on misinformation and his ego.

    We live in a time of government control and corruption so deep, so profound, that it may be too late to actually do anything about it since so much of it is secret and/or constantly in flux.  Reporting on it and exposing it doesn’t seem to be changing it.  It’s hard to hit a moving target.  Especially a target that has its own sights set on us.(BTW, “effect” vs. “affect.”  Look it up.)

    1. I think you’re wrong about the US Constitution. Having worked for an “impact litigator” (the EFF), I’ve seen firsthand how appeal to constitutional principles can be used to overturn laws that are bought and paid for by the rich and powerful. For example, Bernstein, which established the first amendment right to publish strong ciphers, over the objections of the NSA and the US intelligence apparat.

      By contrast, the absence of an agreed-upon set of constitutional absolutes in this country favours the wealthy, because they can simply outspend their opponents in litigation, with no absolutes that courts can refer to — even the Magna Carta’s most cherished principles such as habeas corpus were overturned in self-serving laws created in the last parliament (arbitrary detention for suspected terrorists without trial).

      BTW, there’s nothing more tedious than someone who thinks pointing out typos is a way to score rhetorical points.

      1. @Cory:  Meh.  For every appeal that overturns a bad law there are a dozen that end up enforcing it.  There is a deeper problem here.  BTW, I’m not interested in yours or anyone else’s points.  I’m not 14.  

        1. You could have fooled me. What was all that sarcastic junk about the typo, then?

          As to your statistics (one bad law overturned for every 12 upheld), I’d like a citation. In general, impact litigators bring cases where they have good facts, good clients and bad laws, and score wins. That’s what the “impact” in “impact litigator” means.

      2. I have a strange feeling that what I’m about to say is not going to be popular.

        While I agree that the UK desperately needs a basic, central, etched-in-stone constitution, I think that there are some aspects of the UK’s “fuzzy” laws that might be beneficial.
        Although there is obviously some small argument over this, the 2nd amendment was put in place as a check on the power of the executive, and to a lesser degree, the legislative branches of the US government.
        I would suggest that the retained influence of the royals holds a similar position in the UK.

        I was going to explain, in detail, how the 2 concepts are similar; then I realized that those who understand the benefit of the 2nd will “get” it without explanation; those who don’t, probably will not.

  6. Is there any reason to assume this is limited to Prince Charles?  I’d assume the Queen herself exercises a privilege far more broadly applied, but if this is mostly about his Duchy, are there other nobles granted such vetoes?

    One must imagine the Duchess of Qwghlm retains such a cryptic role, if anyone.

    1. I think the difference is that Prince Charles throws himself into politics and makes his opinions known; whereas the Queen is a ‘good’ royal and keeps her mouth shut about everything.

      I actually like the royal family having an opinion on things, they have as much right to opinion as us and a big stage to broadcast it from – they just shouldn’t get to veto in secret.  And like it or not we are subjects of the Queen and the royal family.

      I wouldn’t mess with them though; remember it’s the Queens police force, and they’re the biggest gang in the UK.

      1. I actually like the royal family having an opinion on things, they have as much right to opinion as us and a big stage to broadcast it from

        What about the idea that they are extremely well paid to keep their opinions to themselves and fulfill their role as figurehead?

      2. I’ve got nothing against him expressing an opinion, but he’s doing way more than that; he’s got a veto on policy — and a secret one, at that.

        That sort of privilege should be reserved for the captains of industry who have actually paid money for it.  …wait, no, that’s not right either.

  7. That written US Constitution never stopped anyone from making all kinds of ridiculous shit up anyway (see corporate personhood).

  8. This is shocking. It will be very interesting to see if Charles’ involvement is revealed, or if they quash this under the national security laws they use to protect the wealthy and powerful in the UK.

    The US Constitution isn’t really relevant to the original post.  Looks like a threadjack to me.

    1. The US constitution is tangentially relevant — in that if we had a similar document, then arguably either this would not happen, or it would not happen in secret?

      I say arguably because I have no idea if it is true.  But it would give us stronger safeguards in general, of course.

  9. It’s archaic crap like this and clergy sitting in the House of Lords that makes me lament for my country.

    1. To be fair, the Lords have often been a welcome source of restraint and moderation during the Blair years, which were in some ways extremely troubling for the shameless and “unconstitutional” power grab enacted by PM and friends on matters as fundamental as going to war. Seeing the high chamber now watered down and stuffed with career politicians is not particularly nice to see. 

      There is widespread consensus that a fully-elected body representing the most direct form of democracy (the Commons in this case) often needs a balancing body to avoid excesses. This has been clear ever since the French Revolution, and it was confirmed over and over again whenever a single party managed to obtain overwhelming majorities among the population. 

      What this second body should look like is still matter for debate. As bad as the clergy can be, they still have less skin in the game than career politicians, and so can be more autonomous and rational in judgement when voting on laws. The challenge here is to find a class of people who can remain mostly autonomous from everyday political processes and “sausage-making”, without conferring them a complete veto. 
      This is similar to what the Royal Family is supposed to be, btw; going back to Charles, his position on the redevelopment of Chelsea Barracks was very welcome on many levels, and again did not spur from a motives of personal gain, which is a breath of fresh air in these materialistic times.

      1. You make a fair point and I agree that the Lords offer a degree of oversight to parliament.

        I would still like to see a complete separation from church and state and no political powers for the monarchy or hereditary titles. 

  10. I don’t find this terribly shocking.   A matter for concern, certainly, but given all the other parties that (as others have pointed out) seem to have a buy-in to policy these days, there are certainly worse things we should be worrying about.

    Not shocking, that is, with the exception of one word.  “secretly”.

  11. There is an argument that goes like this: all his life, Charles has been somehow repressed and frustrated because “one day he’d be king”; but, the poor sod has had the misfortune of following a Queen who (like most queens, which is natural considering women live longer than men on average) has no intention to kick the bucket any time soon; at this point, chances are that he’ll die sooner than his mother, or that he’ll have to abdicate to his son anyway; hence, have pity for a bugger who will never wield the power he was promised all his life, and let him think he has some real influence, by resurrecting the odd long-lost privilege here and there.

    I’m not saying I support this line, just that I know it exists and that it’s probably the origin of  recent “scandals”. There’s also something to be said for The Guardian being constantly on the case of a weak prince because the real baddies of this world (a category which squarely includes their old chum Tony “the Christian Crusader” Blair and wife) are seen as untouchable.

  12. As I recall, Her Majesty the Queen has a traditional right/duty “to advise, to counsel and to warn” (if I remember the phrase correctly) on proposed legislation (and can, if she chooses, refuse to give royal assent to a piece of legislation or a government). My politics teacher in high school said that she’s actually a fair constitutional scholar (insofar as you can be a constitutional scholar of a constitution that doesn’t exist), and at least one British prime minister (can’t remember which one, sorry) is on record as saying that he found her comments valuable.

    But however absurd it is in this day and age that a democracy should give an individual veto power over legislation for no better reason than that they come from a long line of very rich people who were though to be somehow ‘special’, the Queen’s special privileges are at least a known feature of the system. That her son, who holds no special office and will probably never even be the monarch, should secretly enjoy similar privileges is preposterous.

    Incidentally, in 1988, a group called Charter 88 launched a call for a written constitution, an idea that seems eminently sensible. More than twenty years on, we’re still waiting.

    1. I was born within the borders of the Duchy, where there are many people (not a majority, but still many) that believe Cornwall should have independence/autonomy from the rest of England/UK. (Personally, I believe that Cornwall doesn’t have the infrastructure to stand on its own two feet, but some recognition of facts would be nice.I digress.)
      Those people that have studied Cornwall are likely to know that it was one of only two duchies in the land (the other being the Duchy of Leicester, which is the property of the Monarch, not the crown). Cornwall is not only a duchy, but it has an honest to goodness duke to preside over it, the Duke of Cornwall, although you will probably know him better as HRH The Prince of Wales.
      When Cornwall became a duchy in 1337 (prior to that it was an earldom), it was made an extraterrestrial territory of England — land not ruled over by the monarch, but by the duke.
      As such, the king of England has no power in Cornwall (or the rest of the Duchy), and people have no right to act on his behalf.
      What does this mean?
      Well, HRH Customs has no right nor power in Cornwall. It’s up to the Duke to collect taxes. It’s also the Duke’s responsibility to give the go ahead on laws, much in the same way the king has to sign off on laws that effect the rest of the UK.
      So, angusm, to say Charles holds no special office isn’t quite true.
      The interesting part about this, for me, is that he’s only been given the right since 2005. 

  13. Being the heir to the throne and already insanely rich makes it highly unlikely you would fiddle laws for personal gain…..unlike the Labour troughers (and lately, some Tory ones) who would gladly use their influence to get laws passed in exchange for money/power etc. If it really bothers you though Cory, you can take a refund and find a country to live in that breeds unicorns and where everyone is happy…good luck with that!

    1. Nuts.   Are you saying  that it’s a fantastic dream to hold our government to basic standards of accountability and democracy?  

      To believe that they can reach that standard, sure; but not to judge them by it.

    2. Being the heir to the throne and already insanely rich makes it highly unlikely you would fiddle laws for personal gain

      Is it really your contention that insanely wealthy people are unlikely to fiddle the system to realize further profit? Because I’m fairly sure it’s possible to come up with counter-examples.
      Or is your faith in the disinterested nature of the extremely wealthy limited to people who inherit (or stand to inherit) insane amounts of wealth, preferably from a distant rather than a recent ancestor?

      1. There’s a pretty decent case to be made that as a family that possesses vast wealth begins to get more divorced from the initial source of said wealth, you tend to end up with people who tend to pursue the public good because they’re in a position where they’ve had to recalibrate what exactly constitutes their personal interests.

        America got a pretty good run out of the Rockefellers and the Rooseveldts for example.

        1. I’m pretty sure the foundations running Rockefeller’s money have nothing to do with the family, and many of these foundations never have (they’re established in the wills of the plutocrats and managed by independent trustees).

          1. The Rockefellers, Fords and MacArthurs didn’t grow to be families of permanently wealthy doers of good works — rather, the founding plutocrats of those families hived off a slice of their fortunes (for reasons having to do with the goal of establishing a legacy as well as receiving a tax break) that were independently managed.

            There’s no evidence that being from an old, monied family turns you into a generous, giving sort who thinks of the national good first.

    3. “If it really bothers you though Cory, you can take a refund and find a country to live in that breeds unicorns and where everyone is happy…good luck with that! ”

      So, you’re saying that if someone is dissatisfied with his country’s policies (or transparency, or governance) that he should leave that country, rather than work for reform, or call for transparency?

      You know, I’m pretty sure the “Life in the UK” book said the opposite. Are you sure you’re living in the right country? Perhaps you could find one where “If you don’t love it, leave it” is the official doctrine.

      Iran, perhaps.

      1. Iran?  Not a good example.  You can’t leave Iran even when you don’t live there.  (See Zahra Kazemi.)

        What about the USA as  ‘Love it or Leave it’ country?  At least the USA that Fox News seems to think they are in.

        So, I checked what comment you were replying to…  Gah! “Being the heir to the throne and already insanely rich makes it highly unlikely you would fiddle laws for personal gain..”

        Really, Mark, do you really believe that?  Why don’t you look into whether the royals pay income tax?  Forget about the income they get from the UK taxpayers, what about the income they get from all their assets and holdings?

    4. Being … already insanely rich makes it highly unlikely you would fiddle laws for personal gain

      They said the same of Berlusconi, and look where it’s got us.

  14. Come on people; it doesn’t matter what country you’re in all you need is money and you can buy all the legislation you want.  Does it really matter who’s buying it?  Or that they can buy it in the first place?  I don’t see this as any different, he’s just buying it with power instead of money (and maybe even a little money).

    Frankly this won’t stop until someone royally kicks the ass of the government and tells them to get back to their fucking job working for us.  But you’d have to get past the police first; so it’s a pretty corruption riddled process.

  15. I’m not sure in what respect it’s really a “secret” given that each time the process has been used it has been reported to Parliament in public and the process is documented online by the Cabinet Office (see links in

    I don’t think the power is right, but I think reports of it being “secret” are rather an exaggeration – and what the reports lack are any evidence that it’s actually been used to alter legislation.

    So not so much a “secret veto” as a “public irrelevance” :)

  16. As I recall, Prince Charles was pretty rabidly opposed to ACTA and the Digital Economy bill.

    Frankly we need some more mad old hippies at the helm.

    1. Oh yes? Not rabidly opposed enough to actually use his secret veto, apparently.

      Also: first I’ve heard of it.

      1. Point of … well, not information; Point Of Rumour?

        Allegedly his veto only applies to things that directly affect his Duchy of Cornwall.  Like the property he owns.

        As to his motives, honour or leanings, I’ve heard too many stories for and against to be able to make a personal judgement either way.

        1. According to the FA, the standard is legislation “capable of applying to … [the] Prince of Wales’ private interests”.

          These apparently include bills relating to the London Olympics, “coroners, economic development and construction, marine and coastal access, housing and regeneration, energy and planning.”

          The set of “legislation capable of applying to Charles’s interests” seems to almost entirely overlap “UK legislation.”

          1. That’s a fascinating thought.  Presumably he’s not being given veto on every damn bill, though; the paperwork overhead would be amazing.   I wonder how they decide? 

            Doubt we’ll ever know.

    2. Yeah, but on the other hand he’s somewhat anti-science in terms of alt med which might lead to trouble. Doesn’t seem too out of line compared to other people at his income level, though.

  17. Is it just me that finds this heartening both that the monarchy isn’t merely for show (and, of course, I’m even happier that we don’t have a monarchy ?).

    Now, the really interesting question……  They also rule the commonwealth.  If, say, theoretically, a very bad dictator arose in South Africa and started slaughtering white farmers, could the Monarchy just declare war and send a tomahawk missile to sort things out ?

    1. >> Is it just me that finds this heartening both that the monarchy isn’t merely for show…

      Sure you didn’t mean to add a “dis” in front of that “heartening”?

      It does show the superiority of the US system, though.  We manage to allow unelected, inbred billionaires to have direct power of veto over OUR  government with need of any stinking monarchy!

  18. Wait… help me understand something; people are talking as if the UK were a democracy, and not a constitutional monarchy.  The “monarchy” part implies that royalty gets a very paternal role in how the country is run.  If you want to be a real democracy, go through the entire process that results in a government/cultural change, and *then* you can complain that it’s not what you thought it was.  Until, then just be glad that you’ve got royals such as you do; perhaps a little flawed but oh soooo much better than, say, Saudia Arabia, etc.    I mean really – expecting an idealized version of democracy (just about as mythical and unscalable/unsustainable as idealized versions of communism or christianity) shows a pretty poor grasp of the bell-curve structured capabilities of humans that’s almost bordering on magical thinking.

  19. Of course, it almost goes without saying that there should be no special consultation, entitlements or powers for his Chuckness to get special treatment over, whatsoever. 

    But given that some sort of ancient protocol appers to exist, what is most bizarre about this story is the almost totally random set of things it implies Charlie boy was consulted about.  Absolutely no consistency at all as to what sort of things might directly affect his “interests”.  It suggests that certain politicians are still forelock-tugging sycophants using this as a way to pander to him (for whatever personal ends it is difficult to imagine) irrespective of the legislation in question.

    1. Politicians or civil servants? “Yes, Prime Minister” comes to mind. The answer is probably “a bit of both”.

      1. Given “Yes, Minister” as a template, one would suspect rather more of the civil servant, as you say.  In which case, did the minister (a) know and (b) approve of said Charleyicious consultations?

        We’ll never know.

  20. The Queen is head of the armed forces, but who can technically “declare war” in the UK is again open for interpretation. The honourable Anthony Blair and his friend Lord Falconer seemed to think this is a privilege of Her Majesty’s Government (i.e. of the Prime Minister, who ruled supreme in Blair’s view of the body), whereas historically it was settled as a right of the Parliament as a whole; it’s still nominally the Queen who’d have to ratify (or veto) and announce the decision, but if she went ahead and declared war on her own without an official opinion from Parliament and Government, she’d be overruled in no time and you’d have a nice constitutional crisis to sort out.
    Besides, I’m not sure how an internal dispute among Commonwealth countries would legally be framed. Certainly it wouldn’t be a “war” in the same terms as fighting France or Germany. I think that might actually be something the Queen herself would have to judge.What the Queen could certainly do, though, is to order Commander McWhatever to fire the missiles on, say, the SA Stock Exchange rather than some CapeTown slum… not that anybody expects her to.

    1. That comment could be either plain wrong (go look it up) or a most subtle expression of sarcasm. 
      I’m not sure…

  21. the real question here is, why is the UK allowed to be in the European Union at all??  Certainly this could be taken top the European Commission and it would be condemned.  Everything about the UK regarding the EU is that they want all the benefits but none of the democratic standards and responsibilities – it is is time to kick the UK out.

    1. the real question here is, why is the UK allowed to be in the European Union at all??

      Because London is the financial center of Europe?

    2. You mean the European Union the majority of whose members at the time Britain joined were constitutional monarchies? That European Union?

      It was Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the UK and Denmark, plus the republics of France, Italy, Ireland and (West) Germany. The EU only became majority-republics with the 1995 expansion which took it to 8 republics (the ones above plus Greece, Portugal, Austria and Finland) and 7 monarchies (the ones above plus Spain and Sweden).

  22. ” ‘If princes and paupers are to live as equals in a modern Britain, anyone who enjoys exceptional influence or veto should exercise it with complete transparency,’ said Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives in Cornwall.”

    I dare say, if princes and paupers were to live as equals, no one should have execptional influence or veto. What a strange understanding of equality in modern Britain.

  23. Don’t forget Prince Charles’ charming views on complementary medicine and the role he played in persecuting university professors who dared to disagree with him on the need for empirical evidence for same.  Giving him a veto is like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank.

    1. Dracula? Well, Prince Charles does claim relation to Vlad the Impaler.

  24. Charles is playing a dangerous game.
    Most Brits are happy with the Queen because she’s better than another two-faced politician. An elected head of state would just mean two David Camerons or Tony Blairs.
    The Queen is generally liked because she does nothing except act as a goodwill ambassador, and top-class tourist-trap. For all intents and purposes, the Prime Minister is our elected head of state, since royal assent has never been withheld.

    Charles seems to think he has some privileged position of political power rather than merely a privileged position of being paid to have big ears and a silly accent. He can criticise architecture and modern art all he wants, but if he starts messing with legislation (and this looks like denying royal assent by the backdoor) he’ll start getting a lot more raised eyebrows and “why don’t you do something you’re good at, like waving at tourists”.

  25. The UK constitution isn’t entirely  ‘unwritten’. Large parts of it are written. And there does seem to be a hell of a lot of litigating in the US.

  26. Its worth pointing out that in Canada the Governor General has the right to “withhold royal assent” of any legislation, effectively giving the Queen the right to veto any legislation in Canada (this can happen at the provencial level too).

    Its worth clarifying for American readers that the idea of royals vetoing legislation is not alien to either British or Canadian experience. I think to American eyes THAT concept is more offensive than details about which unelected person exercises that authority.

    I can see how this issue raises questions about the formal process and transparency. Certainly, the people’s confidence in the exercise of this power has a great deal to do with the fact that it exists. However, it would not be surprising if Charles had some influence on this process given his relationship with the Queen. You’d think that they’d talk about things, basically. The Queen therefore could have signed off on the idea that they should “ask Charles” regarding certain issues and this might have become formalized. How shocking is that really?

  27. Cory,
         Given your surprise at discovering Britain’s ‘unwritten’ Constitution, are you not aware that because Canada adopted Britain’s system of common law and parliamentary democracy, our Constitution is also largely ‘unwritten’?  For instance, there is no mention of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet.   The reserve powers of the Governor-General (the Queen’s representative in Canada) should also make you cry foul.  But it really depends on your point of view.  With patriation in 1982, Canada added written civil rights and an amending formula a la the United States.  This doesn’t mean that Canadians did not have civil rights before 1982.  I suggest you do a lot more research before you make any conclusions on the merits of either system.   Your point that written constitutions are more flexible is highly debatable.   Are you forgetting the ‘right to bear arms’?  The U.S. Bill of Rights did not prevent slavery; it was abolished earlier in Britain as a result of numerous legal precedents.  Don’t fall into the trap that simpler is better when it comes to Constitutions.

  28. While this is a troublesome revelation, it does need to be pointed out that 12 bills over a 6-year period is hardly a “wide swath”. Additionally, no one seems to know exactly what bills Charles was asked to weigh-in on, or what, if any, effect he leveraged.

    Hopefully some digging reveals more information.

  29. The advantages of a written, unified constitution vs the more evolutionary, messy type of constitution we have aside, I think it’s unrealistic to hope for such a change any time soon. Any attempt to introduce one now is just going to get stalled in disagreement; see the difficulties in getting the EU constitution ratified. You really need a revolution and some very able, multi-disciplinery and passionate Founding Fathers to write such a thing and get it established, not a bunch of bureaucrats and lawyers. Having a revolution helps.

    Otherwise, the closest thing we have to founding fathers are the barons who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, which was long enough ago that the result centuries later is the kind of densely thicketed collection of evolved constitutional laws we have now. I contend that if you have a unified constitution, it will tend to evolve over the centuries anyway. Leave the US for another millennium and they’ll have a mess of constitutional laws and amendments and exceptions and commonly understood concepts that only lawyers understand as well, not to mention obscure personages having anti-democratic vetoes.

    1. The US already has a mess of exceptions and commonly understood concepts that only lawyers understand well, such as the doctrine of incorporation, substantive due process, evolving standards of decency, warrant exceptions, penumbras, etc… We also have a fairly powerful conservative legal movement that posits that all of that is hogwash and that we ought to go back to interpreting the Constitution the way laypeople from the late 1700’s would have. The arguments made here for an evolving Constitution are stronger perhaps than any the American Liberals have put forth, which makes this a really valuable thread.

      The US will never, ever have obscure personages with anti-democratic vetoes. There is no need for that – any such obscure person could manipulate the electorate with advertising more easily.

  30. Being an American, I wonder what exactly the importance of a constitution is if government/corporate interests piss all over in secret (and not so secret) every chance they get?  Sure, we can talk about the Supreme Court being the final arbiter of constitutional matters, but those are issues that actually get exposed to the light of day.  My guess is that there are vast undercurrents of power and influence that circumvent our constitution every day.  Not to mention the circular arguments one finds oneself in debating how our constitution should be interpreted, whether it’s a “living document”, founding father worship, and willful ignorance to the time and place the US Constitution was created in.  

    Should anyone be shocked that Prince Charles has some kind of secret veto power?  I’m not from the UK, but it certainly sounds like something American politicians lust for, and more than likely have in some form or another.

  31. Why do you live here Cory, you complain about the place all the time? (serious question, i’m not being a knob)

    1. Maybe he likes rain, beer, kebabs and EastEnders? Oh, and overpaid footballers still playing kick&run like it was 1890. And the theatres. BBC and NHS also can be exceptionally handy on occasions. I’m told universities are also quite good, although pricey these days. Maybe he was around during the “Madchester” days? Or he has a soft spot for the Covent Garden artsy-touristy thing. From his Hackney name-dropping, maybe he likes ghettoes. Or the most enjoyable Cardiff Bay on a sunny day. I don’t know, there’s a long list of stuff one might like, either in the Kingdom of London or here Up North among the unwashed, or even further north, although above Edinburgh I’ve only seen sheep and ruins, so it might not be a nerd’s cup of tea, so to speak.

      Note how all these things have absolutely nothing in common with the monarchy, politicians or copyright madness, which is what he usually attacks.

    2. Why do you live here Cory, you complain about the place all the time?

      Because of the great cuisine?

      I keed!  I keed!  Me, my other ‘ideal place to live’ would be Stirling, Scotland.  Mostly for the haggis’n’chips and the short train ride to Glasgow.  

      Oh, and the whisky.

  32. The best function monarchs have ever served was as customers of the guillotine. Vive la Republique!

    More seriously (and more broadly), inheritance/ancestry, IMHO, is the social construct most responsible for all of the world’s evil.

    1. More seriously (and more broadly), inheritance/ancestry, IMHO, is the social construct most responsible for all of the world’s evil.

      Hitler? Stalin? Mugabe? Gaddafi? Etc? Etc? Etc?

      1. All rose on nationalism, which, at its roots, is about the inheritance of the accomplishments of our ancestors, as well as the perceived injustices perpetrated against them, and about the desire to pass on our powers to our favoured sons, as opposed to all those out-group weirdos who are not like us.

        We enter the world with no ‘capital’ (in its broadest possible sense), but we typically leave behind a surplus when die. As soon as the surplus becomes non trivial (and it tends to grow bigger and bigger), most of the strife ultimately comes down to how to choose who gets their mitts on it.

        It’s never the immediate cause, and it certainly is not the only cause, but dig deep enough and it emerges as a cause with surprising frequency.

        1. Given that Stalin was Georgian and ruled a Russocentric empire, it’s hard to make an argument that he rose on nationalism.

          1. Hitler was also Austrian-born, but what you are is not as important as what you sell (if you sell it well). Personally, I cannot think of any successful dictators who did not manage to completely convince the populations they lorded over (and terrorised) to see them in a ‘Father of the Nation’-type role. It’s always “only we are the true heirs of …” and “only these … will be our true heirs” with them.

            And gender plays an issue here too, I think. Whether through social norms or evolution (or a little of both) acquiring and leaving a legacy tends to be quite the male preoccupation.

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