There’s no contesting the fact that the most famous royal family today is the British Royal Family. Their lives have been of great fascination to the entire world, especially when commoners like Lady Diana Spencer and Kate Middleton married into the elite brood. They brought the seemingly unreachable royals back down to earth and made them more relatable to regular people. But another reason why the British royals are so popular is because Queen Elizabeth II, who is currently the longest reigning monarch, is held in high esteem by her subjects. She is the symbol of security and stability that people are so desperate for in these uncertain political times, even though she’s mostly just a figurehead who doesn’t wield much power—or is that really the case?
People may say that no one is above the law, but in fact, certain members of the British Royal Family are exempt from following certain laws and rules. Thankfully, they are not abusive, as they choose to set a good example to their subjects. Besides, with social media and widespread technology, they can no longer get away with murder (literally and figuratively), unlike some of their forefathers who strayed from the straight and narrow. So which laws and rules are they not obliged to follow?
15 The queen can fire the Australian government.
Queen Elizabeth II’s official title is the Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and Head of the Commonwealth, the figurehead of the Commonwealth of Nations. Most of the member countries in the Commonwealth operate independently, but its citizens still pledge allegiance to the reigning British monarch, who is represented by a Governor-General in each of these countries. As such, the queen has the power to fire any of the members of the member countries’ governments. If she’s unhappy with the way the Prime Minister of Australia is running the country, for example, she can fire him and the rest of the government officials. She has done this only once in her reign, when in 1975, she fired the then deputy Australian PM through her representative, Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Robert Kerr, due to ministerial scandals.
14 The queen can start a war and refuse laws.
It’s a good thing the United Kingdom has such a peace-loving and reasonable queen, given the power she can wield if she were an ambitious or deranged monarch. Queen Elizabeth II has the power to start a war with any country she deems an enemy of the UK. Of course, this act is carried out by Parliament, but it can’t be done without approval from the monarch. In conjunction, she can also refuse to cooperate in a truce if her opponent is trying to make peace with the UK. The queen can also refuse laws that are being passed by the government as in the UK, a law is not officially a law until the queen gives her seal of approval. After a law is passed in Parliament and the House of Lords, it next falls on the queen’s shoulders to give her royal ascent. She has never actually refused a law, but she very well could.
13 Queen Elizabeth II will never abdicate.
At age 75, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands chose to abdicate her throne to her heir, Prince Willem-Alexander because she felt it was time to hand over the crown to a new generation. But 91-year-old Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain has no intentions to abdicate, even if she has slowed down in her activities and has passed on some of her royal duties to her children and grandchildren. Technically, a British monarch can abdicate if he or she chooses to do so for a compelling reason, such as what King Edward VIII did in 1936 in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. But apart from that incident there’s no tradition of abdication in the history of the British monarchy, unlike the Dutch monarchy. In Britain, monarchs choose to rule until their death, despite questionable circumstances, such as King George III going mad and Queen Victoria becoming a hermit.
12 They may or may not use a surname.
Before 1917, the British royal family had no last name, as its members were always just known by their title and their baptismal name. For example, Prince William would just be known as “Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.” But that year, King George V decreed that the family surname would be Windsor, as they were part of the House of Windsor. Today, royals still don’t have a legal last name, but some of them need to use one on occasion, especially when they enroll at school, the military, or the workforce. But they can choose which name to use, as they have several options. Queen Elizabeth II’s direct descendants have the choice to use Mountbatten-Windsor, which is a blend of the Queen’s and her husband Prince Philip’s last names; or they can use their family’s territorial designation, like Wales or York. When Princes William and Harry joined the military, they were known as William Wales and Harry Wales from their father Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.
11 Non-royals aren’t allowed to touch them, but some have.
Before a member of the royal family attends an event, the people who will also be present are briefed on general protocol when it comes to interacting with the royal. It’s not exactly against the law, but one of the many general guidelines is that “commoners” or those who are not part of the royal family are not allowed to touch the royal, apart from the perfunctory handshake. But sometimes, people get excited, such as NBA player Lebron James, when he met Prince William and Princess Kate. During a photo opportunity, James draped his arm around the duchess and it was clear on her face when the picture was snapped that she wasn’t expecting the gesture, as she stood awkwardly beside the basketball star. She went along with in anyway, as she didn’t want to cause a scene and he wasn’t doing anything illegal anyway. Incidentally, the duke and duchess never hold hands either when they’re at an official royal function because they have to appear professional as they perform their duties.
10 They can now marry outside their religion.
The British monarch is considered the head of the Church of England, much like the Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church and as such, the monarch is not allowed to change religions. Since the 16th century, a British king or queen was banned from marrying a Catholic due to the historical division between British Catholics and Protestants when King Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church to form the Church of England, which became the nation’s official religion. In 2013, the law was eased up and the monarch is now allowed to marry outside their religion, even if their chosen partner is Catholic. However, the couple will not be allowed to raise their children as Catholics, since direct heirs to the throne are not allowed to be Catholic. This amendment to the centuries-old law is good news to Prince Harry, should he decide to marry Meghan Markle, who is both a divorcee and a Catholic.
9 Many of them now wear fur.
In 1137, King Edward III declared that due to its endangerment to animals, no one was allowed to wear fur and the royal family was not exempt from this rule. But almost 900 years later, some royals have gone against the decree and have gotten away with it. Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall (and Prince Charles’ wife) has been seen on occasion wearing a fur hat and a coat with fur lining at the collar. And Queen Elizabeth II herself was seen wearing fur during some public functions, but really, who can berate a monarch for doing such an atrocity? While the police can’t exactly handcuff her for such an outfit choice, she and others who dare to wear fur have drawn the ire of animal activists. They’re especially angered when it’s a public or wealthy figure donning fur because it seems to send the message that fur is not just dangerous to animals but is seen as a status symbol for the rich.
8 The royals spend Christmas together, but not every year for Princess Kate and her family.
It’s a long-standing tradition for the royal family to spend Christmas together at Sandringham Estate, the queen’s country home. In recent years, her grandsons, including Princes William and Harry, would play a Christmas Eve game of soccer with the estate’s workers, followed by afternoon tea in the White Drawing Room. Then there’s the gift-giving after the tea and black-tie dinner and drinks in the evening. On Christmas Day, the family gathers for breakfast and attends a 9:00 AM private service at St. Mary Magdalene Church, followed by a public service at 11:00 AM. But Prince William and Princess Kate have broken with tradition by not spending every Christmas with the royal family. They did so on their first year of marriage, but they have taken to alternating between his family and the Middletons. Suffice to say, they aren’t present at Sandringham every Christmas, unlike the late Princess Diana, who never spent the holidays with the Spencers when she was married to Prince Charles.
7 Direct heirs now travel together.
Almost since the time the British monarchy was established, one of its hard and fast rules was that the reigning monarch and his or her direct heirs were not allowed to travel together long distances, whether it was by plane or boat because these kinds of trips could bring about accidents, illnesses, and even death. So for the sake of preserving the lines of succession, Prince Charles was not to travel with Queen Elizabeth II or Prince William, which happened to be a topic of contention back when Princess Diana was married to him and insisted on bringing their then baby son William on a royal tour of Australia and New Zealand with them. But that antiquated rule is no longer being followed to the letter, at least in today’s generation. It’s now perfectly acceptable for Prince William to bring his children Prince George and Princess Charlotte on the plane with him when he and Princess Kate go on their royal tours abroad.
6 The queen is allowed to eat swans and have pet dolphins.
In the United Kingdom, swans are considered rare and precious creatures that are practically untouchable, let alone edible. People are permitted to eat pheasants, ducks, turkeys, and chickens, but swans are off-limits, as they are partially owned by the queen, whether it’s unmarked swans or the ones that glide on the River Thames. Since she owns them, she can, in theory, partake of them on her table, in honor of her forefathers’ favorite meals of roasted swan with stuffing. Thankfully, she takes her role as swan protector seriously and has not dared to harm them, even for food. Similarly, UK citizens are not allowed to own marine life animals, such as dolphins, whales, and sharks. Whatever marine animals that are swimming around UK waters are the queen’s, so if she decides that she wants a sea tank installed in Buckingham Palace and fills it with pet dolphins, she could without getting into trouble with the law.
5 The queen doesn’t need a driver’s license or a passport.
We all need government IDs of some sort, whether it’s to be able to travel out of the country, operate a vehicle, or simply for identification purposes in filling up important documents. But Queen Elizabeth II doesn’t need a driver’s license, not needing to apply for one when she turned 17, which also means she didn’t have to go to driving school or pass a driver’s test. The irony of her not needing one is all driver’s licenses of UK citizens are issued by the queen herself. But she’s quite the competent driver, though in her older age, she chooses to do her driving only within the confines of her estate. On the subject of government IDs, she doesn’t need a passport either, being one of a small handful of people (also known as monarchs) who aren’t required to have one.
4 The queen doesn’t have to pay taxes.
Even in the Bible, Jesus tells his followers to “give to Caesar what is due to Caesar,” meaning we are all required to pay taxes to the government. That has been the law for thousands of years and we’ve seen and heard of countless cases of tax evasion by individuals or business owners who try to find easy ways and means not to hand over their money to the government. But believe it or not, Queen Elizabeth II is exempt from paying taxes, while the rest of her fellow UK citizens are required to do so. It seems like quite the unfair arrangement, given the fact that she technically lives in splendor on tax payers’ money. So to avoid dissent or putting the royal family in a negative light, the queen has voluntarily been paying her own taxes since 1992, which is commendable given the fact that she really doesn’t have to.
3 The royal family is exempt from the Freedom of Information law.
Like most democratic countries, the United Kingdom has in place the Freedom of Information law, which allows the media and public to probe for information from public figures about various situations, though the questions must be within reason and not an encroachment of personal privacy. But in her quest to keep their private lives far away from prying eyes and scandal, the queen used her power to exempt any member of the royal family from having to follow this law. In other words, her affairs and her family’s activities are private and none of the royals are obligated to explain themselves when their actions are caught by cameras and splashed all over the tabloids. If they choose to give a public statement through the official royal office, they may do so, but they will not get into trouble if they choose to remain mum.
2 The queen can steal children.
When you think of the term “stealing children,” you quite literally think of all sorts of sordid scenarios, like kidnapping, child prostitution or human trafficking. But when put in the context of the queen stealing children, it means that by archaic laws, she has guardianship of all infants and children that suffer certain mental disorders. By modern day standards, it sounds preposterous that she legally has the power to take a baby who is a UK citizen from its parents—because why would a monarch want to abuse this kind of power, unless she has some hidden agenda or is insane? Luckily, this ancient law is not being practiced and the queen is a peaceful and practical monarch who would never dare do something like that to harm any of her subjects.
1 The queen can’t be sued or get prosecuted.
They say no one is above the law, but truth be told, these sage words don’t apply to the reigning British monarch. Queen Elizabeth II not only doesn’t need a driver’s license or passport, but she can never get arrested for going over the speed limit either. It’s not only that simple law that she’s exempt from, though. She can never go to jail or get sued—in fact attempting to sue her is against the law, which means the one trying to sue her can be the one to get in trouble! She is not obliged to give evidence in court or even enter a courtroom, for that matter. The queen can even decide to go rogue and kill someone or have someone killed and she’ll never have to see a jail cell or face execution for such a heinous act. Of course, if she’s so bold as to decide to test her limits, her people can revolt and overthrow her, just like what happened to King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette of France.