British Monarchy – Section 1: The Royal Family

SECTION 1

BRITISH ROYAL FAMILY


 

The British royal family comprises Queen Elizabeth II and her close relations. There is no strict legal or formal definition of who is or is not a member of the British royal family.

Those who at the time are entitled to the style His or Her Royal Highness (HRH), and any styled His or Her Majesty (HM), are normally considered members, including those so styled before the beginning of the current monarch’s reign. By this criterion, a list of the current royal family will usually include the monarch, the children and male-line grandchildren of the monarch and previous monarchs, the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, and all of their current or widowed spouses.

Some members of the royal family have official residences named as the places from which announcements are made in the Court Circular about official engagements they have carried out. The state duties and staff of some members of the royal family are funded from a parliamentary annuity, the amount of which is fully refunded by the Queen to the Treasury.

Since 1917, when King George V changed the name of the royal house from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, members of the royal family have belonged, either by birth or by marriage, to the House of Windsor. Senior titled members of the royal family do not usually use a surname, although since 1960 Mountbatten-Windsor, incorporating Prince Philip’s adopted surname of Mountbatten, has been prescribed as a surname for Elizabeth II’s direct descendants who do not have royal styles and titles, and it has sometimes been used when required for those who do have such titles. The royal family are regarded as British cultural icons, with young adults from abroad naming the family among a group of people that they most associated with British culture.

Public role

Official duties are undertaken on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II by her children and their spouses, grandchildren and their spouses, and cousins and their spouses. Among her cousins, only the children of King George V’s sons carry out royal engagements. The family support the Queen in her state and national duties, with the exception of constitutional functions. If the sovereign is indisposed, two Counsellors of State are required to fulfil her role, of which Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry, and Prince Andrew can serve.

Each year the family “carries out over 2,000 official engagements throughout the UK and worldwide”, entertaining 70,000 guests and answering 100,000 letters. Engagements include state funerals, national festivities, garden parties, receptions, and visits to the Armed Forces. Many members have served in the Armed Forces themselves, including the Queen’s sons and grandsons. Engagements are recorded in the Court Circular, a list of daily appointments and events attended by the royal family. Public appearances are often accompanied by walkabouts, where royals greet and converse with members of the public outside events.

Annual events attended by the royal family include the State Opening of Parliament, Trooping the Colour, and the National Service of Remembrance. According to historian Robert Lacey, the Queen has said that investitures of the honours recipients are the most important thing she does. Prince William, Prince Charles, and Princess Anne also perform investitures. Family members represent the Queen on official visits and tours to other countries as ambassadors to foster diplomatic relations. They have also attended Commonwealth meetings on the monarch’s behalf. The royal family also participates in state visits on the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which includes the welcoming of dignitaries and a formal banquet. Journalist James Forsyth has referred to the family as “soft power assets”.

Given the royal family’s public role and activities, it is sometimes referred to by courtiers as “The Firm”, a term that originated with George VI. Members of the royal family are politically and commercially, avoiding conflict of interest with their public roles. The royal family are considered British cultural icons, with young adults from abroad naming the family among a group of people who they most associated with British culture. Members are expected to promote British industry. Royals are often members of the Church of England, headed by the monarch, and have previously served as Lord High Commissioner to the Church of Scotland.

Members of the royal family are patrons for approximately 3,000 charities, and have also started their own nonprofit organisations. Prince Charles started The Prince’s Trust, which helps young people in the UK that are disadvantaged. Princess Anne started The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, which helps unpaid carers, giving them emotional support and information about benefit claims and disability aids. The Earl and Countess of Wessex founded the Wessex Youth Trust, since renamed The Earl and Countess of Wessex Charitable Trust, in 1999. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are founding patrons of The Royal Foundation, whose projects revolve around mental health, conservation, the early years, and emergency responders.

In 2019, following the negative reactions to the “Prince Andrew & the Epstein Scandal” interview, the Duke of York was forced to resign from public roles; the retirement became permanent in 2020. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex permanently withdrew from royal duties in early 2020. Following these departures, there is a shortage of royal family members to cover the increasing number of patronages and engagements.

Source: Wikipedia

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