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The five royals who can carry out the duties of the monarch should The Queen become ill with coronavirus


Kiefer, E. J. Hersom, USAID/Vietnam, Arnaud Bouissou and Chatham House via Flickr CC

In many European countries, in the absence of the monarch, another member of The Royal Family becomes regent. In Denmark, for example, when Queen Margrethe is out of the country or is otherwise incapacitated, the Crown Prince often acts as temporary monarch.

However, in the United Kingdom, the system is strikingly different. Should the monarch become ill with a short-term illness, two or more members of The Royal Family can stand in for her.

This is particularly relevant in the current climate, with Her Majesty potentially looking at being quarantined for a period of up to four months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The royals who can act as a substitute to The Queen are known as Counsellors of State who are high-ranking members of the Royal Family.

The Counsellors can carry out most functions of the Crown, such as attending Privy Council meetings and signing documents on behalf of the monarch.

They cannot, however, dissolve Parliament without The Queen’s permission, appoint a Prime Minister, deal with Commonwealth matters or create peerages.

The current Counsellors of State are the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of York.

Two or more Councillors of State must be presiding at any one time, which may pose a problem should the sovereign require assistance in the immediate future.

The Prince of Wales is 71-years-old, which means he may also have to be quarantined, as is also the case with the 98-year-old Duke of Edinburgh.

The Duke of Sussex and the Duke of York are no longer working royals. This does not mean they cannot act as Councillors of State, although it will no doubt prove controversial.

This leaves the Duke of Cambridge as the only Councillor who is a working royal and is likely to remain out of quarantine should the government advise all over 70s to isolate.

The Counsellors of State are made up of the consort of The Queen and the first four people in the line of succession meeting the qualifications.

Those who are chosen must have reached the age of twenty-one, although the heir to the throne becomes qualified when they reach eighteen.

The only person to have been a Counsellor of State while not a queen consort, prince or princess was George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood since the 1937 passage of the Regency Act.

The Queen Mother served as Counsellor of State from 1953 until 2002. Upon Prince William turning twenty-one, The Princess Royal’s position ended. Likewise for the Earl of Wessex who was a Counsellor until Prince Harry turned twenty-one in 2005.