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The Sussexes

Changes to the Regency Act imminent as Prince Harry becomes unable to fulfil his constitutional duties

Changes to the Regency Act are likely to be imminent following the Duke of Sussex’s decision to write an ‘explosive’ memoir about The Royal Family.

The provisions of the Regency Act have long needed updating, but never has the matter become so pressing.

Ignoring all the hot air and drama Prince Harry has a habit of creating, there are important constitutional matters that need addressing sooner rather than later.

At the moment, there are two possible scenarios for someone else ruling on behalf of the monarch. 

The first is if the Queen is deemed to be unable to continue to rule, and the second is in the event of Prince George succeeding to the throne before he is eighteen. 

In the first instance, the Regency would pass to the Prince of Wales. The second scenario, Prince George becoming Monarch before the age of 18, is where the issue lies now that Harry has well and truly cut ties with his family, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

In 1937, a new Regency Act was passed as King George VI’s reign got under way. His heiress, Elizabeth, was just ten and legislation was drawn up to cover who would rule for her should she succeed before she turned 18. However, while previous Regency Acts had focused on the situation in question, this one set out to make general provisions that would govern all future scenarios. And that is where Harry comes in.

The Act of 1937 states that should the throne pass to someone under the age of eighteen then the Regent will be the next person in the line of succession aged 21 or over. And right now, should Prince George find himself on the throne before the end of July 2034, that would be Harry.

There is also the issue of Counsellors of State to consider. This role is given to senior members of the Royal Family and allows the Queen to delegate some of her powers when she is out of the UK or not able to discharge them fully herself on a temporary basis. 

Two are usually appointed by letters patent when needed and those letters patent can be revoked at any time. These Counsellors can exercise many of the Monarch’s functions including attending Privy Council meetings and receiving Letters of Credence from new ambassadors.

The role belongs to the Monarch’s consort and the four most senior people in the line of succession. To take on the role, they must be over the age of 21, British subjects and living in the UK. The current list is the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of York.

Now that the Duke of Sussex has cut ties with his family, he cannot fulfil these most important of constitutional roles.

As such, we must expect an amendment to the 1937 Act to safeguard the monarchy in such an event, as unlikely as it may be.

There are indications that Harry is well aware of what is coming.

In the promo for his new book, the Duke said: “I’m writing this not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become.”

One cannot help but wonder whether Harry’s announcement is an attempt to supersede an imminent statement from Buckingham Palace.

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