Monday, October 31, 2011

thoroughly modern

Since the creation of the Duchy of Cornwall in 1337 the Prince of Wales's consent has been sought on laws that affect the estate

Under the charter, the duchy always belongs to the sovereign's eldest son who is the heir apparent. If the heir apparent dies without leaving children, the property of the duchy reverts to the crown. So although the duchy belongs to the Prince of Wales, who is also the Duke of Cornwall, there is a theoretical possibility that it could revert to the sovereign, who therefore has a contingent personal interest in matters that affect the property of the duchy.

Bills in parliament that would affect the sovereign's private interests (or the royal prerogative) require the Queen's consent; by extension, therefore, bills that would affect the duchy also require consent, and since the Prince of Wales administers the duchy he also performs the function of considering and granting relevant requests for consent.

Queen's consent and prince's consent are fundamentally different from royal assent. The consents are required as a matter of parliamentary procedure, as a method of protecting crown prerogative and private interests.

Royal assent is a feature of constitutional law rather than merely parliamentary procedure: it is the method by which a bill that has passed through parliament becomes an act, and it amounts to a formal assent given by the sovereign.

Apart from the special position of property belonging to the Duchy of Cornwall, the Duke of Cornwall has no special constitutional position; he is a subject of the crown like any other. The sovereign and the Prince of Wales are the only members of the royal family whose consent is required for bills that affect their private interests.

Daniel Greenberg is a parliamentary lawyer at Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP.
What a strange country this is. Last week was taken up with proposals to revise 1701's Act of Settlement, now our gaze is drawn back a further three hundred and sixty three years.
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