Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. Elizabeth was born in London as the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, she was educated at home, her father acceded to the throne on the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII in 1936, from which time she was the heir presumptive. She began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In 1947, she married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, with whom she has four children: Charles, Prince of Wales; when her father died in February 1952, she became head of the Commonwealth and queen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ceylon. She has reigned as a constitutional monarch through major political changes, such as devolution in the United Kingdom, Canadian patriation, the decolonisation of Africa. Between 1956 and 1992, the number of her realms varied as territories gained independence and realms, including South Africa and Ceylon, became republics.
Her many historic visits and meetings include a state visit to the Republic of Ireland and visits to or from five popes. Significant events have included her coronation in 1953 and the celebrations of her Silver and Diamond Jubilees in 1977, 2002, 2012 respectively. In 2017, she became the first British monarch to reach a Sapphire Jubilee, she is the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch as well as the world's longest-reigning queen regnant and female head of state, the oldest and longest-reigning current monarch and the longest-serving current head of state. Elizabeth has faced republican sentiments and press criticism of the royal family, in particular after the breakdown of her children's marriages, her annus horribilis in 1992 and the death in 1997 of her former daughter-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales. However, support for the monarchy has been and remains high, as does her personal popularity. Elizabeth was born at 02:40 on 21 April 1926, during the reign of her paternal grandfather, King George V.
Her father, the Duke of York, was the second son of the King. Her mother, the Duchess of York, was the youngest daughter of Scottish aristocrat the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, she was delivered by Caesarean section at her maternal grandfather's London house: 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair. She was baptised by the Anglican Archbishop of York, Cosmo Gordon Lang, in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace on 29 May, named Elizabeth after her mother, Alexandra after George V's mother, who had died six months earlier, Mary after her paternal grandmother. Called "Lilibet" by her close family, based on what she called herself at first, she was cherished by her grandfather George V, during his serious illness in 1929 her regular visits were credited in the popular press and by biographers with raising his spirits and aiding his recovery. Elizabeth's only sibling, Princess Margaret, was born in 1930; the two princesses were educated at home under the supervision of their mother and their governess, Marion Crawford.
Lessons concentrated on history, language and music. Crawford published a biography of Elizabeth and Margaret's childhood years entitled The Little Princesses in 1950, much to the dismay of the royal family; the book describes Elizabeth's love of horses and dogs, her orderliness, her attitude of responsibility. Others echoed such observations: Winston Churchill described Elizabeth when she was two as "a character, she has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant." Her cousin Margaret Rhodes described her as "a jolly little girl, but fundamentally sensible and well-behaved". During her grandfather's reign, Elizabeth was third in the line of succession to the throne, behind her uncle Edward and her father. Although her birth generated public interest, she was not expected to become queen, as Edward was still young. Many people believed he would have children of his own; when her grandfather died in 1936 and her uncle succeeded as Edward VIII, she became second-in-line to the throne, after her father.
That year, Edward abdicated, after his proposed marriage to divorced socialite Wallis Simpson provoked a constitutional crisis. Elizabeth's father became king, she became heir presumptive. If her parents had had a son, she would have lost her position as first-in-line, as her brother would have been heir apparent and above her in the line of succession. Elizabeth received private tuition in constitutional history from Henry Marten, Vice-Provost of Eton College, learned French from a succession of native-speaking governesses. A Girl Guides company, the 1st Buckingham Palace Company, was formed so she could socialise with girls her own age, she was enrolled as a Sea Ranger. In 1939, Elizabeth's parents toured the United States; as in 1927, when her parents had toured Australia and New Zealand, Elizabeth remained in Britain, since her father thought her too young to undertake public tours. Elizabeth "looked tearful", they corresponded and she and her parents made the first royal transatlantic telephone call on 18 May.
In September 1939, Britain entered the Second World War. Lord Hailsham suggested that the two princesses should be evacuated to Canada to avoid the frequent aerial bombing; this was rejected by Elizabeth's mother. I won't leave wit
British government departments
The government of the United Kingdom exercises its executive authority through a number of government departments or departments of state. A department is composed of employed officials, known as civil servants, is politically accountable through a minister. Most major departments are headed by a secretary of state, who sits in the cabinet, supported by a team of junior ministers. There are a number of non-ministerial departments; these are headed by senior civil servants, but are linked to a ministerial department through whose ministers they are accountable to Parliament. Departments serve to implement the policies of Her Majesty's Government, regardless of the government's political composition; as a consequence, officials within government departments are required to adhere to varying levels of political impartiality and neutrality. There are two types of government departments. Ministerial departments are led politically by a government minister a member of the cabinet and cover matters that require direct political oversight.
For most departments, the government minister in question is known as a secretary of state. He or she is supported by a team of junior ministers; the administrative management of a department is led by a senior civil servant, known as a permanent secretary. Subordinate to these ministerial departments are executive agencies. An executive agency has a degree of autonomy to perform an operational function and report to one or more specific government departments, which will set the funding and strategic policy for the agency. At "arm's length" from a parent or sponsor department there can be a number of non-departmental public bodies, known colloquially as quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations. Non-ministerial departments cover matters for which direct political oversight is judged unnecessary or inappropriate, they are headed by senior civil servants. Some fulfil a regulatory or inspection function, their status is therefore intended to protect them from political interference; some are headed by Second Permanent Secretaries.
Charity Commission for England and Wales Competition and Markets Authority Crown Prosecution Service Food Standards Agency Forestry Commission Government Actuary's Department Government Legal Department Her Majesty's Land Registry Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs National Crime Agency National Savings and Investments Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills Office of Gas and Electricity Markets Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation Office of Rail and Road Ordnance Survey Serious Fraud Office Supreme Court of the United Kingdom The National Archives UK Statistics Authority UK Trade & Investment Water Services Regulation Authority Office of the Prime Minister Politics of the United Kingdom Cabinet Office - UK Government GOV. UK - widest range of government information and services online A list of all public bodies granted Crown copyright
English law is the common law legal system of England and Wales, comprising criminal law and civil law, each branch having its own courts and procedures. England's most authoritative law is statutory legislation, which comprises Acts of Parliament, regulations and by-laws. In the absence of any statutory law, the common law with its principle of stare decisis forms the residual source of law, based on judicial decisions and usage. Common law is made by sitting judges who apply both statutory law and established principles which are derived from the reasoning from earlier decisions. Equity is the other historic source of judge-made law. Common law can be repealed by Parliament. Not being a civil law system, English law has no comprehensive codification. However, most of its criminal law has been codified from its common law origins, in the interests both of certainty and of ease of prosecution. For the time being, murder remains a common law crime rather than a statutory offence. Although Scotland and Northern Ireland form part of the United Kingdom and share Westminster as a primary legislature, they have separate legal systems outside of English Law.
International treaties such as the European Union's Treaty of Rome or the Hague-Visby Rules have effect in English law only when adopted and ratified by Act of Parliament. Adopted treaties may be subsequently denounced by executive action.. Unless the denouncement or withdraw would affect rights enacted by parliament. In this case executive action cannot be used due to the doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty; this principle was established in the case of Miller v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union in 2017. Criminal law is the law of punishment whereby the Crown prosecutes the accused. Civil law is concerned with tort, families, companies and so on. Civil law courts operate to provide a party who has an enforceable claim with a remedy such as damages or a declaration. In this context, civil law is the system of codified law, prevalent in Europe. Civil law is founded on the ideas of Roman Law. By contrast, English law is the archetypal common law jurisdiction, built upon case law.
In this context, common law means the judge-made law of the King's Bench. Equity is concerned with trusts and equitable remedies. Equity operates in accordance with the principles known as the "maxims of equity"; the reforming Judicature Acts of the 1880s amalgamated the courts into one Supreme Court of Judicature, directed to administer both law and equity. The neo-gothic Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand, were built shortly afterwards to celebrate these reforms. Public Law is the law governing relationships between the state. Private law encompasses relationships between other private entities. A remedy is "the means given by law for the recovery of a right, or of compensation for its infringement". Most remedies are available only from the court. Most civil actions claiming damages in the High Court were commenced by obtaining a writ issued in the Queen's name. After 1979, writs have required the parties to appear, writs are no longer issued in the name of the Crown. Now, after the Woolf Reforms of 1999 all civil actions other than those connected with insolvency, are commenced by the completion of a Claim Form as opposed to a Writ, Originating Application, or Summons.
In England, there is a hierarchy of sources, as follows: Legislation The case law rules of common law and equity, derived from precedent decisions Parliamentary conventions General Customs Books of authority Primary legislation in the UK may take the following forms: Acts of Parliament Acts of the Scottish Parliament Acts and Measures of the National Assembly for Wales Statutory Rules of the Northern Ireland AssemblyOrders in Council are a sui generis category of legislation. Secondary legislation in England includes: Statutory Instruments and Ministerial Orders Bye-laws of metropolitan boroughs, county councils, town councilsStatutes are cited in this fashion: "Short Title Year", e.g. Theft Act 1968; this became the usual way to refer to Acts from 1840 onwards. For example, the Pleading in English Act 1362 was referred to as 36 Edw. III c. 15, meaning "36th year of the reign of Edward III, chapter 15".. Common law is a term with historical origins in the legal system of England, it denotes, in the first place, the judge-made law that developed from the early Middle Ages as described in a work published at the end of the 19th century, The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, in which Pollock and Maitland expanded the work of Coke and Blackstone.
The law developed in England's Court of Common Pleas and other common law courts, which became the law of the colonies settled under the crown of England or of the United Kingdom, in North America and elsewhere.
Theresa Mary May is a British politician serving as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party since 2016. She served as Home Secretary from 2010 to 2016. May was first elected Member of Parliament for Maidenhead in 1997. Ideologically, she identifies herself as a one-nation conservative. May attended St Hugh's College, Oxford. After graduating in 1977, she worked for the Bank of England, she served as a councillor for Durnsford in Merton. After unsuccessful attempts to be elected to the House of Commons she was elected as the MP for Maidenhead in the 1997 general election. From 1999 to 2010, May held a number of roles in Shadow Cabinets, she was Chairwoman of the Conservative Party from 2002 to 2003. When the coalition government was formed after the 2010 general election, May was appointed Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, but gave up the latter role in 2012, she continued to serve as home secretary after the Conservative victory in the 2015 general election, became the longest-serving home secretary in over 60 years.
During her tenure she pursued reform of the Police Federation, implemented a harder line on drugs policy including the banning of khat, oversaw the introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners, the deportation of Abu Qatada, the creation of the National Crime Agency, brought in additional restrictions on immigration. She is to the only woman to hold two of the great offices of state. In July 2016, after David Cameron resigned, May was elected as Conservative Party Leader, becoming Britain's second female Prime Minister after Margaret Thatcher; as Prime Minister, May began the process of withdrawing the UK from the European Union, triggering Article 50 in March 2017. The following month, she announced a snap general election, with the aim of strengthening her hand in Brexit negotiations; this resulted in a hung parliament, in which the number of Conservative seats fell from 330 to 317, despite the party winning its highest vote share since 1983. The loss of an overall majority prompted her to enter a confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party to support a minority government.
May survived a vote of no confidence from her own MPs in December 2018 and a Parliamentary vote of no confidence in January 2019. May has said that she will not lead her party in the next general election scheduled for 2022 under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, but has not ruled out leading it into a snap election. May carried out the Brexit negotiations with the European Union, adhering to the Chequers Agreement, which resulted in the draft Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU; this agreement was defeated by Parliament in January 2019, negotiations continue to try and reach a deal. May’s revised deal was defeated in Parliament by 391 votes to 242. In March 2019, May committed to stepping down as Prime Minister if Parliament passed her Brexit deal, to make way for a new leader in the second phase of Brexit. Born on 1 October 1956 in Eastbourne, May is the only child of Zaidee Mary and Hubert Brasier, her father was a Church of England clergyman, chaplain of an Eastbourne hospital. He became vicar of Enstone with Heythrop and of St Mary's at Wheatley, to the east of Oxford.
May's mother was a supporter of the Conservative Party. She attended Heythrop Primary School, a state school in Heythrop, followed by St. Juliana's Convent School for Girls, a Roman Catholic independent school in Begbroke, which closed in 1984; when she was 13, May won a place at the former Holton Park Girls' Grammar School, a state school in Wheatley. During her time as a pupil, the Oxfordshire education system was reorganised and the school became the new Wheatley Park Comprehensive School. May attended the University of Oxford where she read geography at St Hugh's College, graduating with a second class BA degree in 1977. Between 1977 and 1983 May worked at the Bank of England, from 1985 to 1997 as a financial consultant and senior advisor in International Affairs at the Association for Payment Clearing Services, she married Philip May in September 1980. Her father died in her mother of multiple sclerosis the following year. May stated she was "sorry they never saw me elected as a Member of Parliament".
May served as a councillor for Durnsford ward on the London Borough of Merton from 1986 to 1994, where she was Chairman of Education and Deputy Group Leader and Housing Spokesman. In the 1992 general election May stood unsuccessfully for the safe Labour seat of North West Durham, coming second to incumbent MP Hilary Armstrong by 12,747 votes to 26,734, with future Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron coming third. May stood at the 1994 Barking by-election, prompted by the death of Labour MP Jo Richardson; the seat had been continuously held by Labour since it was created in 1945 and Labour candidate Margaret Hodge was expected to win which she did, with 13,704 votes. May came a distant third with 1,976 votes. Ahead of the 1997 general election, May was selected as the Conservative candidate for Maidenhead, a new seat, created from parts of the seats of Windsor and Maidenhead and Wokingham, she was elected with 25,344 votes double the total of second-placed Andrew Terence Ketteringham of the Liberal Democrats, who took 13,363 votes.
Having entered Parliament, May became a member of William Hague's front-bench Opposition team, as Shadow Spokesman for Schools, Disabled People and Women. She became the first of the 1997 MPs to enter the Shadow Cabinet when in 1999 she
State Opening of Parliament
The State Opening of Parliament is an event which formally marks the beginning of a session of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It includes a speech from the throne known as the Queen's Speech; the State Opening is an elaborate ceremony showcasing British history and contemporary politics to large crowds and television viewers. It takes place in the House of Lords chamber in May or June, but traditionally in November, in front of both Houses of Parliament; the monarch, wearing the Imperial State Crown, reads a speech, prepared by his or her government outlining its plans for that parliamentary year. A State Opening may take place at other times of the year if an election is held early due to a vote of no confidence in the government. In 1974, when two general elections were held, there were two State Openings. Queen Elizabeth II has opened every session of Parliament since her accession, except in 1959 and 1963 when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward respectively; those two sessions were opened by Lords Commissioners, headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, empowered by the Queen.
The Lord Chancellor read the Queen's Speech on those occasions. The State Opening of Parliament is a ceremony loaded with historical ritual and symbolic significance for the governance of the United Kingdom. In one place are assembled the members of all three branches of government, of which the Monarch is the authority and nominal head in each part: the Crown-in-Parliament, constitutes the legislature. Therefore, the State Opening demonstrates the governance of the United Kingdom but the separation of powers; the importance of international relations is represented through the presence in the Chamber of the corps diplomatique. The ceremonial surrounding the opening of parliament can be broken down into several parts: First, the cellars of the Palace of Westminster are searched by the Yeomen of the Guard in order to prevent a modern-day Gunpowder Plot; the Plot of 1605 involved a failed attempt by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill the Protestant King James I and aristocracy.
Since that year, the cellars have been searched, now but not only, for ceremonial purposes. This is supervised by the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Yeomen are paid for their services with a small glass of port wine; the peers assemble in the House of Lords wearing their robes. They are joined by members of the diplomatic corps; the Commons assemble in their own chamber, wearing ordinary day dress, begin the day, as any other, with prayers. The Speaker of the House of Commons makes his usual procession towards the Commons Chamber, accompanied by his Household, the Mace, a police inspector who makes a traditional cry of "Hats off, strangers." This commands those in Central Lobby to remove their hats in deference to the highest-ranking commoner in the realm. Before the monarch departs from Buckingham Palace the Treasurer and Vice-Chamberlain of the Queen's Household deliver ceremonial white staves to her; the Lord Chamberlain, on behalf of the monarch, keeps the hostage MP "prisoner" for the duration of the state opening, by tradition as a surety for the safe return of the monarch.
The hostage MP is well entertained until the successful conclusion of the ceremony, when he or she is released upon the safe return of the Queen. The Vice-Chamberlain's imprisonment is now purely ceremonial; the tradition stems from the time of Charles I, who had a contentious relationship with Parliament and was beheaded in 1649 during the Civil War between the monarchy and Parliament. A copy of Charles I's death warrant is displayed in the robing room used by the monarch as a ceremonial reminder of what can happen to a monarch who attempts to interfere with Parliament. Hostage MPs have included: 2014: Desmond Swayne 2015–16: Kris Hopkins 2017: Chris Heaton-Harris Before the arrival of the sovereign, the Imperial State Crown is carried to the Palace of Westminster in its own State Coach from the Victoria Tower, the Crown is passed by the sovereign's Bargemaster to the Comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain's office, under the watchful eye of the Crown Jeweller, it is carried, along with the Great Sword of State and the Cap of Maintenance, to be displayed in the Royal Gallery.
Brought in this procession in King Edward VII's Town Coach, are two maces, separate from the three used by parliament, to be displayed by the Sergeants-at-Arms in the Royal Procession. The monarch arrives at the Palace of Westminster from Buckingham Palace in a state coach, entering through the Sovereign's Entrance under the Victoria Tower. Members of the armed forces line the procession route from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster; as the national anthem is played, the Royal Standard is hoisted to replace the Union Flag upon the Sovereign's entrance and remains flying whilst she is present
Constitution of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom does not have a codified constitution such as other countries tend to have. Instead of such a constitution, certain documents stand to serve as replacements in lieu of one; these texts and their provisions therein are considered to be constitutional, such that the "constitution of the United Kingdom" or "British constitution" may refer to a number of historical and momentous laws and principles like the Acts of Union 1707 and the Acts of Union 1800 which formulate the country's body politic. Thus the term "UK constitution" is sometimes said to refer to an "unwritten" or uncodified constitution; the British constitution draws from four sources: statute law, common law, parliamentary conventions, works of authority. Similar to a constitutional document, it concerns both the relationship between the individual and the state and the functioning of the legislature, the executive, the judiciary. Since the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the concept of parliamentary sovereignty has been the bedrock of the British legislative constitution.
The statutes passed by Parliament are the supreme and final source of law in the UK. It follows that Parliament can change the constitution by passing new statutes through Acts of Parliament. There has been some debate about whether parliamentary sovereignty remained intact in the light of the UK's membership in the European Union, an argument, used by proponents of leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum. Another core constitutional principle, the rule of law, is a phrase, popularized by legal scholar Albert Dicey in his 1885 work Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution, recognized by the British Parliament as a work of authority on the constitution. Acts of Parliament are bills which have received the approval of Parliament – that is, the Monarch, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. On rare occasions, the House of Commons uses the "Parliament Acts" to pass legislation without needing the approval of the House of Lords, it is unheard of in modern times for the Monarch to refuse to assent to a bill, though the possibility was contemplated by George V in relation to the fiercely controversial Government of Ireland Act 1914.
Acts of Parliament are among the most important sources of the constitution. According to the traditional view, Parliament has the power to legislate however it wishes on any subject it wishes. For example, most of the iconic medieval statute known as Magna Carta has been repealed since 1828, despite being regarded as sacrosanct, it has traditionally been the case that the courts are barred from questioning any Act of Parliament, a principle that can be traced back to the medieval period. On the other hand, this principle has not been without its dissidents and critics over the centuries, attitudes among the judiciary in this area may be changing. One consequence of the principle of parliamentary sovereignty is that there is no hierarchy among Acts of Parliament: all parliamentary legislation is, in principle, of equal validity and effectiveness. However, the judgment of Lord Justice Laws in the Thoburn case in 2002 indicated that there may be a special class of "constitutional statutes" such as Magna Carta, the Human Rights Act 1998, the European Communities Act 1972, the Acts of Union and Bill of Rights which have a higher status than other legislation.
This part of his judgment was "obiter" – and, was controversial. It remains to be seen. Treaties do not, on ratification, automatically become incorporated into UK law. Important treaties have been incorporated into domestic law by means of Acts of Parliament; the European Convention on Human Rights, for example, was given "further effect" into domestic law through the preamble of the Human Rights Act 1998. The Treaty of Union of 1707 was important in creating the unitary state which exists today; the treaty was between the governments of England and Scotland and was put into effect by two Acts of Union which were passed by the Parliaments of both nations. The Treaty, along with the subsequent Acts, brought into existence the Kingdom of Great Britain, uniting the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland. Common law legal systems exist in Northern Ireland and in England and Wales, but not in Scotland which has a hybrid system which includes a great deal of Common Law. Court judgments commonly form a source of the constitution: speaking in English Law, judgments of the higher courts form precedents or case law that binds lower courts and judges.
However Scots Law does not accord the same status to precedent, judgments in one legal system do not have a direct effect in the other legal systems. Important court judgments include those in the Case of Proclamations, the Ship money case and Entick v Carrington, all of which imposed limits on the power of the executive. A constitutional precedent applicable to British colonies is Campbell v Hall, which extended those same constitutional limitations to any territory, granted a representative assembly. Many British constitutional conventions are ancient in origin, though others date from within living memory; such conventions, which include the duty of the Monarch to act on the advice of his or her ministers, are not formally enforceable in a court of law. Most are works written b
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council known as the Privy Council of the United Kingdom or just the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. Its membership comprises senior politicians who are current or former members of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords; the Privy Council formally advises the sovereign on the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, corporately it issues executive instruments known as Orders in Council, which among other powers enact Acts of Parliament. The Council holds the delegated authority to issue Orders of Council used to regulate certain public institutions; the Council advises the sovereign on the issuing of Royal Charters, which are used to grant special status to incorporated bodies, city or borough status to local authorities. Otherwise, the Privy Council's powers have now been replaced by its executive committee, the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. Certain judicial functions are performed by the Queen-in-Council, although in practice its actual work of hearing and deciding upon cases is carried out day-to-day by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
The Judicial Committee consists of senior judges appointed as Privy Counsellors: predominantly Justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and senior judges from the Commonwealth. The Privy Council acted as the High Court of Appeal for the entire British Empire, continues to hear appeals from the Crown Dependencies, the British Overseas Territories, some independent Commonwealth states; the Privy Council of the United Kingdom was preceded by the Privy Council of Scotland and the Privy Council of England. The key events in the formation of the modern Privy Council are given below: In Anglo-Saxon England, Witenagemot was an early equivalent to the Privy Council of England. During the reigns of the Norman monarchs, the English Crown was advised by a royal court or curia regis, which consisted of magnates and high officials; the body concerned itself with advising the sovereign on legislation and justice. Different bodies assuming distinct functions evolved from the court; the courts of law took over the business of dispensing justice, while Parliament became the supreme legislature of the kingdom.
The Council retained the power to hear legal disputes, either in the first instance or on appeal. Furthermore, laws made by the sovereign on the advice of the Council, rather than on the advice of Parliament, were accepted as valid. Powerful sovereigns used the body to circumvent the Courts and Parliament. For example, a committee of the Council—which became the Court of the Star Chamber—was during the 15th century permitted to inflict any punishment except death, without being bound by normal court procedure. During Henry VIII's reign, the sovereign, on the advice of the Council, was allowed to enact laws by mere proclamation; the legislative pre-eminence of Parliament was not restored until after Henry VIII's death. Though the royal Council retained legislative and judicial responsibilities, it became a administrative body; the Council consisted of forty members in 1553, but the sovereign relied on a smaller committee, which evolved into the modern Cabinet. By the end of the English Civil War, the monarchy, House of Lords, Privy Council had been abolished.
The remaining parliamentary chamber, the House of Commons, instituted a Council of State to execute laws and to direct administrative policy. The forty-one members of the Council were elected by the House of Commons. In 1653, Cromwell became Lord Protector, the Council was reduced to between thirteen and twenty-one members, all elected by the Commons. In 1657, the Commons granted Cromwell greater powers, some of which were reminiscent of those enjoyed by monarchs; the Council became known as the Protector's Privy Council. In 1659, shortly before the restoration of the monarchy, the Protector's Council was abolished. Charles II restored the Royal Privy Council, but he, like previous Stuart monarchs, chose to rely on a small group of advisers. Under George I more power transferred to this committee, it now began to meet in the absence of the sovereign, communicating its decisions to him after the fact. Thus, the British Privy Council, as a whole, ceased to be a body of important confidential advisers to the sovereign.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of the word privy in Privy Council is an obsolete meaning "of or pertaining to a particular person or persons, one's own". It is related to the word private, derives from the French word privé; the sovereign, when acting on the Council's advice, is known as the King-in-Council or Queen-in-Council. The members of the Council are collectively known as The Lords of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council; the chief officer of the body is the Lord President of the Council, the fourth highest Great Officer of State, a Cabinet member and either the Leader of the House of Lords or of the House of Commons. Another important official is the Clerk, whose signature is appended to all orders made in the Council. Both Privy Counsellor and Privy Councillor may be used to refer to a member of the Council; the former, however, is preferred by the Privy Council Office, emphasising English usage of the term Counsellor a