King Charles sidestepped an awkward regency drama between Princes Harry and Andrew.

Prince Harry will keep his last royal role – But there’s a catch

When King Charles III celebrated his birthday earlier this week, the news focused on him replacing his father, Prince Philip, as a park ranger in a new position.

Then, of course, there was the “Happy Birthday” performance by the military bands outside Buckingham Palace during the changing of the guard. Numerous members of the family also shared happy birthday messages and images on their official social media pages. All of this will have likely contributed to the day being one to remember.

Separately, the King took action to resolve a problem that had existed for a very long time prior to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.


King Charles sidestepped an awkward regency drama between Princes Harry and Andrew.


Charles requested on Monday that Princess Anne and Prince Edward be given the title of Counsellors of State by the UK Parliament. The action would give them the authority to temporarily fill in for him when instructed to do so. The King stated that the request was made to maintain the efficient operation of the government in a message read out in the upper chamber, the House of Lords.

“I confirm that I would be most content should Parliament see fit to increase the number of people who may be called upon to act as Counsellors of State under the terms of the Regency Acts 1937 to 1953 to include my sister and brother, the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex and Forfar, both of whom have previously performed this role. This will ensure continued efficiency of public business when I’m unavailable, such as while I’m performing official duties abroad.

The Commons, the lower house, also heard the same message.

The first four family members in the line of succession who are over the age of 21 and the monarch’s spouse make up the current group of royals who can act in the sovereign’s place, which numbers five. Through a letters patent, two advisors can be chosen to represent the monarch and manage the state’s affairs. At the moment, that means that the cohort also consists of Princess Beatrice, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Sussex, and the Duke of York.


Counsellors of State can fulfil royal duties in Charles’s absense.
Photo: HANNAH MCKAY/AFP/POOL/AFP via Getty Images


Experts have long argued that there aren’t enough counselors available, and as the late Queen’s health deteriorated toward the end of her reign, public discussion of the issue grew. When the Queen was ill, Charles and William were given permission to serve as counselors. Many people were aware that her other two advisors were Princes Harry and Andrew, despite the fact that they were no longer employed by the family for very different, widely reported reasons.

The workings of royal duties would typically take place behind palace walls. But after Charles’ accession, the subject was once again raised, and since any modifications to the Regency Act require legislation, the subject was finally brought up in the House of Lords late last month.

According to Labour Peer Viscount Stansgate, the Duke of York “has left public life,” while the Duke of Sussex “has left the country,” undermining Andrew and Harry’s authority as regents. When should we “approach the King to see whether a reasonable amendment can be made to this Act,” he questioned. Lord True, the Lord Privy Seal, responded by saying that although he wouldn’t reveal “any private conversations” he may have had with the King or the Royal Family, “the government will always consider what arrangements are needed to ensure resilience in our constitutional arrangements.”

The King’s actions this week prove that the palace has been considering the predicament and the available options. It’s also not unusual to add to the list of official stand-ins; it was done for the Queen Mother in 1953 after Elizabeth II ascended to the throne.


Princess Anne and Prince Edward are set to become Counsellors of State.


Practically speaking, it appears that Parliament is eager to find a quick solution to the problem. The Lords promised to act “without delay” and “will provide such measures as may appear necessary or expedient for securing the purpose set out by His Majesty” in a response to Charles’ request that came a day later.

The Counsellors of State Bill 2022-23 is moving through the Palace of Westminster at a breakneck pace, proving that the Lords weren’t joking when they suggested expedience. By Tuesday afternoon, it had received its first reading, and next week will see both a second reading and a debate.

An elegant response to a potential constitutional crisis is to increase the number of royals who can stand in for the King. It allows for greater flexibility, probably helps to avoid awkward family situations, and protects the two dukes from any potential public humiliation that might have resulted from their removal from their positions. Charles’ method effectively ends speculation about whether Harry or Andrew will ever be needed, even though both are still listed as counselors on paper.

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