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The Privy Council (PC), officially His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the sovereign of the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotland, Wales and ...
. Its membership mainly comprises senior politicians who are current or former members of either the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada. In both of these countries, the Commons holds much more legislative power than the nominally upper house of parliament. T ...
or the
House of Lords The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by appointment, heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminst ...
. The Privy Council formally advises the sovereign on the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, and as a body corporate (as
King-in-Council The King-in-Council or the Queen-in-Council, depending on the gender of the reigning monarch, is a constitutional term in a number of states. In a general sense, it would mean the monarch exercising executive authority, usually in the form of ap ...
) it issues executive instruments known as
Orders in Council An Order-in-Council is a type of legislation in many countries, especially the Commonwealth realms. In the United Kingdom this legislation is formally made in the name of the monarch by and with the advice and consent of the Privy Council (''Ki ...
which, among other powers, enact
Acts of Parliament Acts of Parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliament or council). In most countries with a parliamentary system of government, acts of parliament be ...
. The Council also holds the delegated authority to issue Orders of Council, mostly 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, and
city A city is a human settlement of notable size.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routledge. It can be def ...
or
borough A borough is an administrative division in various English-speaking countries. In principle, the term ''borough'' designates a self-governing walled town, although in practice, official use of the term varies widely. History In the Middle A ...
status to local authorities. Otherwise, the Privy Council's powers have now been largely replaced by its executive committee, the
Cabinet of the United Kingdom The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the senior decision-making body of His Majesty's Government. A committee of the Privy Council, it is chaired by the prime minister and its members include secretaries of state and other senior ministers. ...
. Certain judicial functions are also performed by the King-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 The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (initialism: UKSC or the acronym: SCOTUK) is the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom for all civil cases, and for criminal cases originating in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. As the United ...
and senior judges from the
Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically, it has been synonymous with " republic". The noun "commonwealth", meaning "public welfare, general good or advantage", dates from th ...
. The Privy Council formerly acted as the High Court of Appeal for the entire
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It began with the overseas possessions and trading posts es ...
(other than for the United Kingdom itself). It continues to hear judicial appeals from some other independent
Commonwealth countries The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of 56 sovereign states. Most of them were British colonies or dependencies of those colonies. No one government in the Commonwealth exercises power over the others, as is the case in a po ...
, as well as Crown Dependencies and
British Overseas Territories The British Overseas Territories (BOTs), also known as the United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs), are fourteen territories with a constitutional and historical link with the United Kingdom. They are the last remnants of the former Br ...
.


History

The
Privy Council A privy council is a body that advises the head of state of a state, typically, but not always, in the context of a monarchic government. The word "privy" means "private" or "secret"; thus, a privy council was originally a committee of the mon ...
of the United Kingdom, created on 1 January 1801, was preceded by the Privy Council of
Scotland Scotland (, ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a Anglo-Scottish border, border with England to the southeast ...
, the Privy Council of
England England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. It is separated from continental Europe by ...
, and the Privy Council of
Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the largest European island and the ninth-largest island in the world. It is d ...
(1708–1800). The key events in the formation of the modern Privy Council are given below: In
Anglo-Saxon England Anglo-Saxon England or Early Medieval England, existing from the 5th to the 11th centuries from the end of Roman Britain until the Norman conquest in 1066, consisted of various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 927, when it was united as the Kingdom of ...
,
Witenagemot The Witan () was the king's council in Anglo-Saxon England from before the seventh century until the 11th century. It was composed of the leading magnates, both ecclesiastic and secular, and meetings of the council were sometimes called the Wit ...
was an early equivalent to the
Privy Council of England The Privy Council of England, also known as His (or Her) Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council (), was a body of advisers to the sovereign of the Kingdom of England. Its members were often senior members of the House of Lords and the House of ...
. During the reigns of the Norman monarchs, the
English Crown This list of kings and reigning queens of the Kingdom of England begins with Alfred the Great, who initially ruled Wessex, one of the seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms which later made up modern England. Alfred styled himself King of the Anglo-S ...
was advised by a
royal court A royal court, often called simply a court when the royal context is clear, is an extended royal household in a monarchy, including all those who regularly attend on a monarch, or another central figure. Hence, the word "court" may also be appl ...
or '' curia regis'', which consisted of
magnate The magnate term, from the late Latin ''magnas'', a great man, itself from Latin ''magnus'', "great", means a man from the higher nobility, a man who belongs to the high office-holders, or a man in a high social position, by birth, wealth or ot ...
s, ecclesiastics and high officials. The body originally concerned itself with advising the sovereign on legislation, administration and justice. Later, different bodies assuming distinct functions evolved from the court. The courts of law took over the business of dispensing
justice Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve, with the interpretation of what then constitutes "deserving" being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspective ...
, while
Parliament In modern politics, and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: representing the electorate, making laws, and overseeing the government via hearings and inquiries. T ...
became the supreme legislature of the kingdom. Nevertheless, 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.Gay, p. 2. Powerful sovereigns often used the body to circumvent the Courts and Parliament. For example, a committee of the Council—which later 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 Henry VIII (28 June 149128 January 1547) was King of England from 22 April 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry is best known for his six marriages, and for his efforts to have his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon) annulled. His disagr ...
'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. The nineteen-member council by 1540 had become a new national institution, likely, the creation of
Thomas Cromwell Thomas Cromwell (; 1485 – 28 July 1540), briefly Earl of Essex, was an English lawyer and statesman who served as chief minister to King Henry VIII from 1534 to 1540, when he was beheaded on orders of the king, who later blamed false charge ...
without exact definitions of its powers. Though the royal Council retained legislative and judicial responsibilities, it became a primarily administrative body. The Council consisted of forty members in 1553, whereas Henry VII swore over a hundred servants to his council. Sovereigns relied on a smaller working committee which evolved into the modern Cabinet. By the end of the
English Civil War The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists led by Charles I ("Cavaliers"), mainly over the manner of Kingdom of England, England's governanc ...
, the monarchy, House of Lords, and Privy Council had been abolished. The remaining parliamentary chamber, the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada. In both of these countries, the Commons holds much more legislative power than the nominally upper house of parliament. T ...
, instituted a
Council of State A Council of State is a governmental body in a country, or a subdivision of a country, with a function that varies by jurisdiction. It may be the formal name for the cabinet or it may refer to a non-executive advisory body associated with a head ...
to execute laws and to direct administrative policy. The forty-one members of the Council were elected by the House of Commons; the body was headed by
Oliver Cromwell Oliver Cromwell (25 April 15993 September 1658) was an English politician and military officer who is widely regarded as one of the most important statesmen in English history. He came to prominence during the 1639 to 1651 Wars of the Three K ...
, ''de facto'' military dictator of the nation. In 1653, however, Cromwell became
Lord Protector Lord Protector ( plural: ''Lords Protector'') was a title that has been used in British constitutional law for the head of state. It was also a particular title for the British heads of state in respect to the established church. It was sometim ...
, and the Council was reduced to between thirteen and twenty-one members, all elected by the Commons. In 1657, the Commons granted Cromwell even greater powers, some of which were reminiscent of those enjoyed by monarchs. The Council became known as the Protector's Privy Council; its members were appointed by the Lord Protector, subject to Parliament's approval. 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. The formation of the
Kingdom of Great Britain The Kingdom of Great Britain (officially Great Britain) was a sovereign country in Western Europe from 1 May 1707 to the end of 31 December 1800. The state was created by the 1706 Treaty of Union and ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, whi ...
in 1707 combined the Privy Councils of England and Scotland, the latter body coming to an end in 1708. Under George I even more power transferred to a small committee of the Council, which began to meet in the absence of the sovereign, communicating its decisions to him after the fact. Thus, the Privy Council, as a whole, ceased to be a body of important confidential advisers to the Sovereign; the role passed to a committee of the Council, now known as the Cabinet. With the creation of the United Kingdom on 1 January 1801, a single Privy Council was created for Great Britain and Ireland, although the Irish Privy Council continued to exist until 1922.


Functions

The sovereign exercises executive authority by making
Orders in Council An Order-in-Council is a type of legislation in many countries, especially the Commonwealth realms. In the United Kingdom this legislation is formally made in the name of the monarch by and with the advice and consent of the Privy Council (''Ki ...
upon the advice of the Privy Council. Orders-in-Council, which are drafted by the
government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, executive, and judiciary. Government i ...
rather than by the sovereign, are secondary legislation and are used to make government regulations and to make government appointments. Furthermore, Orders-in-Council are used to grant
royal assent Royal assent is the method by which a monarch formally approves an act of the legislature, either directly or through an official acting on the monarch's behalf. In some jurisdictions, royal assent is equivalent to promulgation, while in othe ...
for laws passed by the legislatures of British Crown Dependencies, and were used to grant royal assent for Measures of the National Assembly for Wales. Orders of Council, distinct from Orders-in-Council, are issued by members of the Privy Council without requiring the approval of the sovereign. They are issued under the specific authority of
Acts of Parliament Acts of Parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliament or council). In most countries with a parliamentary system of government, acts of parliament be ...
, and most commonly are used for the regulation of public institutions. The sovereign also grants
royal charter A royal charter is a formal grant issued by a monarch under royal prerogative as letters patent. Historically, they have been used to promulgate public laws, the most famous example being the English Magna Carta (great charter) of 1215, but ...
s on the advice of the Privy Council. Charters bestow special status to incorporated bodies; they are used to grant " chartered" status to certain professional, educational or charitable bodies, and sometimes also
city A city is a human settlement of notable size.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routledge. It can be def ...
and
borough A borough is an administrative division in various English-speaking countries. In principle, the term ''borough'' designates a self-governing walled town, although in practice, official use of the term varies widely. History In the Middle A ...
status to towns. The Privy Council therefore deals with a wide range of matters, which also includes university and livery company statutes,Gay and Rees, p. 5.
churchyard In Christian countries a churchyard is a patch of land adjoining or surrounding a church, which is usually owned by the relevant church or local parish itself. In the Scots language and in both Scottish English and Ulster-Scots, this can also ...
s, coinage and the dates of
bank holiday A bank holiday is a national public holiday in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and the Crown Dependencies. The term refers to all public holidays in the United Kingdom, be they set out in statute, declared by royal proclamation A ...
s. The Privy Council formerly had sole power to grant academic degree-awarding powers and the title of
university A university () is an institution of higher (or tertiary) education and research which awards academic degrees in several academic disciplines. Universities typically offer both undergraduate and postgraduate programs. In the United States, t ...
, but following the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 these powers have been transferred to the
Office for Students The Office for Students (OfS) is a non-departmental public body of the Department for Education, acting as the regulator and competition authority for the higher education sector in England. In February 2021, James Wharton, Baron Wharton of Yarm ...
for educational institutions in England.


Notable orders

The
Civil Service The civil service is a collective term for a sector of government composed mainly of career civil servants hired on professional merit rather than appointed or elected, whose institutional tenure typically survives transitions of political leaders ...
is formally governed by Privy Council Orders, as an exercise of the Royal Prerogative. One such order implemented HM Government's ban of
GCHQ Government Communications Headquarters, commonly known as GCHQ, is an intelligence and security organisation responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance (IA) to the government and armed forces of the Un ...
staff from joining a trade union. Another, the Civil Service (Amendment) Order in Council 1997, permitted the Prime Minister to grant up to three political advisers management authority over some Civil Servants.
BBC Radio 4 BBC Radio 4 is a British national radio station owned and operated by the BBC that replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. It broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history from the BBC's ...

What's the Point of ... The Privy Council
, 12 May 2009
In the 1960s, the Privy Council made an order to evict the 2,000 inhabitants of the 65-island
Chagos Archipelago The Chagos Archipelago () or Chagos Islands (formerly the Bassas de Chagas, and later the Oil Islands) is a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 islands in the Indian Ocean about 500 kilometres (310 mi) south of the Maldives archi ...
in the Indian Ocean, in preparation for the establishment of a joint United States–United Kingdom military base on the largest outlying island,
Diego Garcia Diego Garcia is an island of the British Indian Ocean Territory, a disputed overseas territory of the United Kingdom. It is a militarised atoll just south of the equator in the central Indian Ocean, and the largest of the 60 small islands of ...
, some distant. In 2000, the
High Court of Justice The High Court of Justice in London, known properly as His Majesty's High Court of Justice in England, together with the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court, are the Senior Courts of England and Wales. Its name is abbreviated as EWHC (England ...
ruled that the inhabitants had a right to return to the archipelago. In 2004, the Privy Council, under Jack Straw's tenure, overturned the ruling. In 2006, the
High Court of Justice The High Court of Justice in London, known properly as His Majesty's High Court of Justice in England, together with the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court, are the Senior Courts of England and Wales. Its name is abbreviated as EWHC (England ...
found the Privy Council's decision to be unlawful. Justice Kentridge stated that there was no known precedent "for the lawful use of prerogative powers to remove or exclude an entire population of British subjects from their homes and place of birth",
BBC #REDIRECT BBC #REDIRECT BBC #REDIRECT BBC Here i going to introduce about the best teacher of my life b BALAJI sir. He is the precious gift that I got befor 2yrs . How has helped and thought all the concept and made my success in the 10th board ex ...

Court victory for Chagos families
, 11 May 2006
and the Court of Appeal were persuaded by this argument, but the
Law Lords Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, commonly known as Law Lords, were judges appointed under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 to the British House of Lords, as a committee of the House, effectively to exercise the judicial functions of the House of ...
of the
Appellate Committee of the House of Lords Whilst the House of Lords of the United Kingdom is the upper chamber of Parliament and has government ministers, it for many centuries had a judicial function. It functioned as a court of first instance for the trials of peers, for impeachments ...
found the original decision to be flawed and overturned the ruling by a 3–2 decision, thereby upholding the terms of the Order in Council.


Committees

The Privy Council has committees:


Baronetage Committee

The Baronetage Committee was established by a 1910 Order in Council, during
Edward VII Edward VII (Albert Edward; 9 November 1841 – 6 May 1910) was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Emperor of India, from 22 January 1901 until his death in 1910. The second child and eldest son of Queen Victoria an ...
's reign, to scrutinise all succession claims (and thus reject doubtful ones) to be placed on the Roll of Baronets.


Committee for the Affairs of Jersey and Guernsey

The Committee for the Affairs of Jersey and Guernsey recommends approval of
Channel Islands The Channel Islands ( nrf, Îles d'la Manche; french: îles Anglo-Normandes or ''îles de la Manche'') are an archipelago in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two Crown Dependencies: the Bailiwick of Jerse ...
legislation.


Committee for the Purposes of the Crown Office Act 1877

The Committee for the purposes of the Crown Office Act 1877 consists of the
Lord Chancellor The lord chancellor, formally the lord high chancellor of Great Britain, is the highest-ranking traditional minister among the Great Officers of State in Scotland and England in the United Kingdom, nominally outranking the prime minister. Th ...
and
Lord Privy Seal The Lord Privy Seal (or, more formally, the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal) is the fifth of the Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord President of the Council and above the Lord Great Chamberlain. Originally, ...
as well as a secretary of state. The Committee, which last met in 1988, is concerned with the design and usage of wafer seals.


Executive Committee

The
Cabinet of the United Kingdom The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the senior decision-making body of His Majesty's Government. A committee of the Privy Council, it is chaired by the prime minister and its members include secretaries of state and other senior ministers. ...
is the executive committee of the Privy Council and the senior decision-making body of
British Government ga, Rialtas a Shoilse gd, Riaghaltas a Mhòrachd , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size = 220px , image2 = Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg , image_size2 = 180px , caption = Royal Arms , date_es ...
.


Judicial Committee

The Judicial Committee serves as the final court of appeal for the Crown Dependencies, the
British Overseas Territories The British Overseas Territories (BOTs), also known as the United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs), are fourteen territories with a constitutional and historical link with the United Kingdom. They are the last remnants of the former Br ...
, some
Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically, it has been synonymous with " republic". The noun "commonwealth", meaning "public welfare, general good or advantage", dates from th ...
countries, military sovereign base areas and a few institutions in the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotland, Wales and ...
. The Judicial Committee also hears very occasional appeals from a number of ancient and ecclesiastical courts. These include the Church Commissioners, the Arches Court of Canterbury, the Chancery Court of York, prize courts, the High Court of Chivalry, and the Court of Admiralty of the
Cinque Ports The Confederation of Cinque Ports () is a historic group of coastal towns in south-east England – predominantly in Kent and Sussex, with one outlier ( Brightlingsea) in Essex. The name is Old French, meaning "five harbours", and alludes to ...
. This committee usually consists of members of the
Supreme Court of the United Kingdom The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (initialism: UKSC or the acronym: SCOTUK) is the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom for all civil cases, and for criminal cases originating in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. As the United ...
and senior judges of the
Commonwealth of Nations The Commonwealth of Nations, simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the ...
who are Privy Counsellors. Within the United Kingdom, the Judicial Committee hears appeals from
ecclesiastical courts An ecclesiastical court, also called court Christian or court spiritual, is any of certain courts having jurisdiction mainly in spiritual or religious matters. In the Middle Ages, these courts had much wider powers in many areas of Europe than be ...
, the Admiralty Court of the Cinque Ports, Prize Courts and the Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, appeals against schemes of the Church Commissioners and appeals under certain Acts of Parliament (e.g., the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975). The Crown-in-Council was formerly the supreme appellate court for the entire
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It began with the overseas possessions and trading posts es ...
, but a number of Commonwealth countries have now abolished the right to such appeals. The Judicial Committee continues to hear appeals from several Commonwealth countries, from
British Overseas Territories The British Overseas Territories (BOTs), also known as the United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs), are fourteen territories with a constitutional and historical link with the United Kingdom. They are the last remnants of the former Br ...
,
Sovereign Base Areas Akrotiri and Dhekelia, officially the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia (SBA),, ''Periochés Kyríarchon Váseon Akrotiríou ke Dekélias''; tr, Ağrotur ve Dikelya İngiliz Egemen Üs Bölgeleri is a British Overseas Territory ...
and Crown Dependencies. The Judicial Committee had direct jurisdiction in cases relating to the Scotland Act 1998, the
Government of Wales Act 1998 The Government of Wales Act 1998 (c. 38) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It was passed in 1998 by the Labour government to create a Welsh Assembly, therefore granting Wales a degree of self-government. This legislative ...
and the
Northern Ireland Act 1998 __NOTOC__ The Northern Ireland Act 1998 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which allowed Westminster to devolve power to Northern Ireland, after decades of direct rule. It renamed the New Northern Ireland Assembly, established by ...
, but this was transferred to the new UK Supreme Court in 2009.Gay and Rees, p. 6.


Scottish Universities Committee

The Scottish Universities Committee considers proposed amendments to the statutes of Scotland's four ancient universities.


Universities Committee

The Universities Committee, which last met in 1995, considers
petition A petition is a request to do something, most commonly addressed to a government official or public entity. Petitions to a deity are a form of prayer called supplication. In the colloquial sense, a petition is a document addressed to some offici ...
s against statutes made by Oxford and Cambridge universities and their colleges.


Other committees

In addition to the standing committees, ''ad hoc'' committees are notionally set up to consider and report on petitions for
royal charter A royal charter is a formal grant issued by a monarch under royal prerogative as letters patent. Historically, they have been used to promulgate public laws, the most famous example being the English Magna Carta (great charter) of 1215, but ...
s of Incorporation and to approve changes to the bye-laws of bodies created by royal charter. Committees of privy counsellors are occasionally established to examine specific issues. Such committees are independent of the Privy Council Office and therefore do not report directly to the lord president of the council. Examples of such committees include: * the Butler Committee – operation of the intelligence services in the runup to military intervention in Iraq * the Chilcot Committee – for the Chilcot Inquiry on the use of intercept materials * the Gibson Committee of enquiry set up in 2010 – to consider whether the UK security services were complicit in torture of detainees.


Membership


Composition

The Sovereign, when acting on the Council's advice, is known as the ''
King-in-Council The King-in-Council or the Queen-in-Council, depending on the gender of the reigning monarch, is a constitutional term in a number of states. In a general sense, it would mean the monarch exercising executive authority, usually in the form of ap ...
'' or '' Queen-in-Council'', depending on the gender of the reigning monarch. The members of the Council are collectively known as ''The Lords of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council'' (sometimes ''The Lords and others of ...''). The chief officer of the body is the
Lord President of the Council The lord president of the Council is the presiding officer of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom and the fourth of the Great Officers of State, ranking below the Lord High Treasurer but above the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal. The Lord ...
, who is the fourth-highest
Great Officer of State Government in medieval monarchies generally comprised the king's companions, later becoming the Royal Household, from which the officers of state arose, initially having household and government duties. Later some of these officers became ...
, a Cabinet member and normally, either the Leader of the House of Lords or of the House of Commons. Another important official is the
Clerk A clerk is a white-collar worker who conducts general office tasks, or a worker who performs similar sales-related tasks in a retail environment. The responsibilities of clerical workers commonly include record keeping, filing, staffing service ...
, whose signature is appended to all orders made in the Council. Both ''Privy Counsellor'' and ''Privy Councillor'' may correctly 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'' as "one who gives
counsel A counsel or a counsellor at law is a person who gives advice and deals with various issues, particularly in legal matters. It is a title often used interchangeably with the title of ''lawyer''. The word ''counsel'' can also mean advice given ...
", as opposed to "one who is a member of a council". A Privy Counsellor is traditionally said to be "''sworn of''" the Council after being received by the sovereign. The sovereign may appoint any person as a Privy Counsellor, but in practice, appointments are made only on the advice of
His Majesty's Government ga, Rialtas a Shoilse gd, Riaghaltas a Mhòrachd , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size = 220px , image2 = Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg , image_size2 = 180px , caption = Royal Arms , date_es ...
. The majority of appointees are senior politicians, including ministers of the Crown, the leader of the main opposition party, the leader of the third-largest party in the House of Commons, the heads of the devolved administrations, and senior politicians from Commonwealth countries. Besides these, the Council includes a small number of members of the
Royal Family A royal family is the immediate family of kings/ queens, emirs/emiras, sultans/ sultanas, or raja/rani and sometimes their extended family. The term imperial family appropriately describes the family of an emperor or empress, and the term p ...
, some senior British and Commonwealth judges, some senior clergy, and a small number of senior civil servants. There is no statutory limit to the membership of the Privy Council.Gay, p. 3. Members have no automatic right to attend all Privy Council meetings, and only some are summoned regularly to meetings (in practice at the Prime Minister's discretion). The
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is the established Christian church in England and the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain ...
's three senior bishops – the
Archbishop of Canterbury The archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and a principal leader of the Church of England, the ceremonial head of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. The current archbishop is Jus ...
, the
Archbishop of York The archbishop of York is a senior bishop in the Church of England, second only to the archbishop of Canterbury. The archbishop is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of York and the metropolitan bishop of the province of York, which covers ...
and the
Bishop of London A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of Episcopal polity, authority and oversight in a religious institution. In Christianity, bishops are normally responsible for the governance of dioceses. The role or offic ...
– become privy counsellors upon appointment. Senior members of the Royal Family may also be appointed, but this is confined to the Monarch's consort,
heir apparent An heir apparent, often shortened to heir, is a person who is first in an order of succession and cannot be displaced from inheriting by the birth of another person; a person who is first in the order of succession but can be displaced by the b ...
, and heir apparent's spouse. The Private Secretary to the Sovereign is always appointed a Privy Counsellor, as are the
Lord Chamberlain The Lord Chamberlain of the Household is the most senior officer of the Royal Household of the United Kingdom, supervising the departments which support and provide advice to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom while also acting as the main ch ...
, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the
Lord Speaker The Lord Speaker is the presiding officer, chairman and highest authority of the House of Lords in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The office is analogous to the Speaker of the House of Commons: the Lord Speaker is elected by the member ...
. Justices of the
Supreme Court of the United Kingdom The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (initialism: UKSC or the acronym: SCOTUK) is the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom for all civil cases, and for criminal cases originating in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. As the United ...
, judges of the
Court of Appeal of England and Wales The Court of Appeal (formally "His Majesty's Court of Appeal in England", commonly cited as "CA", "EWCA" or "CoA") is the highest court within the Senior Courts of England and Wales, and second in the legal system of England and Wales only to ...
, senior judges of the Inner House of the Court of Session (Scotland's highest law court) and the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland also join the Privy Council ''ex officio''. The balance of Privy Counsellors is largely made up of politicians. The Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers and the Leader of HM Opposition are traditionally sworn into the Privy Council upon appointment. Leaders of major
parties A party is a gathering of people who have been invited by a host for the purposes of socializing, conversation, recreation, or as part of a festival or other commemoration or celebration of a special occasion. A party will often featur ...
in the House of Commons,
first minister A first minister is any of a variety of leaders of government cabinets. The term literally has the same meaning as "prime minister" but is typically chosen to distinguish the office-holder from a superior prime minister. Currently the title of ' ...
s of the devolved administrations, some senior ministers outside Cabinet, and on occasion other respected senior parliamentarians are appointed privy counsellors. Because Privy Counsellors are bound by
oath Traditionally an oath (from Anglo-Saxon ', also called plight) is either a statement of fact or a promise taken by a sacrality as a sign of verity. A common legal substitute for those who conscientiously object to making sacred oaths is to giv ...
to keep matters discussed at Council meetings secret, the appointment of the leaders of opposition parties as privy counsellors allows the Government to share confidential information with them "on Privy Council terms". This usually only happens in special circumstances, such as in matters of
national security National security, or national defence, is the security and defence of a sovereign state, including its citizens, economy, and institutions, which is regarded as a duty of government. Originally conceived as protection against military att ...
. For example,
Tony Blair Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British former politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. He previously served as Leader of the ...
met Iain Duncan Smith (then Leader of HM Opposition) and Charles Kennedy (then
Leader of the Liberal Democrats The Liberal Democrats are a political party in the United Kingdom. Party members elect the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the head and highest-ranking member of the party. Liberal Democrat members of Parliament also elect a deputy leader of ...
) "on Privy Council terms" to discuss the evidence for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Although the Privy Council is primarily a British institution, officials from some other
Commonwealth realms A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state in the Commonwealth of Nations whose monarch and head of state is shared among the other realms. Each realm functions as an independent state, equal with the other realms and nations of the Commonwealt ...
are also appointed. By 2000, the most notable instance was New Zealand, whose
Prime Minister A prime minister, premier or chief of cabinet is the head of the cabinet and the leader of the ministers in the executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary or semi-presidential system. Under those systems, a prime minister is n ...
, senior politicians, Chief Justice and Court of Appeal Justices were traditionally appointed Privy Counsellors. However, appointments of New Zealand members have since been discontinued. The
Prime Minister A prime minister, premier or chief of cabinet is the head of the cabinet and the leader of the ministers in the executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary or semi-presidential system. Under those systems, a prime minister is n ...
, the Speaker, the
Governor-General Governor-general (plural ''governors-general''), or governor general (plural ''governors general''), is the title of an office-holder. In the context of governors-general and former British colonies, governors-general are appointed as viceroy t ...
and the Chief Justice of New Zealand are still accorded the style ''
Right Honourable ''The Right Honourable'' (abbreviation: ''Rt Hon.'' or variations) is an honorific style traditionally applied to certain persons and collective bodies in the United Kingdom, the former British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations. The term i ...
'', but without membership of the Council. Until the late 20th century, the prime ministers and chief justices of Canada and Australia were also appointed privy counsellors. Canada also has its own Privy Council, the King's Privy Council for Canada (''see'' below). Prime ministers of some other Commonwealth countries that retain the King as their sovereign continue to be sworn of the Council.


Meetings

Meetings of the Privy Council are normally held once each month wherever the Sovereign may be in residence at the time. The
quorum A quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative assembly (a body that uses parliamentary procedure, such as a legislature) necessary to conduct the business of that group. According to '' Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised'', the ...
, according to the Privy Council Office, is three, though some statutes provide for other quorums (for example, section 35 of the
Opticians Act 1989 An optician, or ''dispensing optician'', is a technical practitioner who designs, fits and dispenses lenses for the correction of a person's vision. Opticians determine the specifications of various ophthalmic appliances that will give the nec ...
provides for a lower quorum of two). The Sovereign attends the meeting, though their place may be taken by two or more Counsellors of State.Gay and Rees, p. 4. Under the Regency Acts 1937 to 1953 and the Counsellors of State Act 2022, Counsellors of state may be chosen from among the sovereign's spouse, the four individuals next in the line of succession who are over 21 years of age (18 for the first in line), Prince Edward and Princess Anne. Customarily the sovereign remains standing at meetings of the Privy Council, so that no other members may sit down, thereby keeping meetings short. The lord president reads out a list of orders to be made, and the sovereign merely says "Approved". Few Privy Counsellors are required to attend regularly. The settled practice is that day-to-day meetings of the Council are attended by four Privy Counsellors, usually the relevant minister to the matter(s) pertaining. The Cabinet Minister holding the office of
Lord President of the Council The lord president of the Council is the presiding officer of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom and the fourth of the Great Officers of State, ranking below the Lord High Treasurer but above the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal. The Lord ...
invariably presides. Under Britain's modern conventions of parliamentary government and constitutional monarchy, every Order-in-Council is drafted by a
government department Ministry or department (also less commonly used secretariat, office, or directorate) are designations used by first-level executive bodies in the machinery of governments that manage a specific sector of public administration." Энцикло ...
and has already been approved by the minister responsible – thus actions taken by the
King-in-Council The King-in-Council or the Queen-in-Council, depending on the gender of the reigning monarch, is a constitutional term in a number of states. In a general sense, it would mean the monarch exercising executive authority, usually in the form of ap ...
are formalities required for validation of each measure. Full meetings of the Privy Council are held only when the reigning Sovereign announces their own engagement (which last happened on 23 November 1839, in the reign of
Queen Victoria Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death in 1901. Her reign of 63 years and 216 days was longer than that of any previo ...
); or when there is a Demise of the Crown, either by the death or abdication of the Monarch. A full meeting of the Privy Council was also held on 6 February 1811, when the
Prince of Wales Prince of Wales ( cy, Tywysog Cymru, ; la, Princeps Cambriae/Walliae) is a title traditionally given to the heir apparent to the English and later British throne. Prior to the conquest by Edward I in the 13th century, it was used by the rulers ...
was sworn in as
regent A regent (from Latin : ruling, governing) is a person appointed to govern a state '' pro tempore'' (Latin: 'for the time being') because the monarch is a minor, absent, incapacitated or unable to discharge the powers and duties of the monarchy ...
by
Act of Parliament Acts of Parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliament or council). In most countries with a parliamentary system of government, acts of parliament be ...
. The current statutes regulating the establishment of a regency in the case of minority or incapacity of the sovereign also require any regents to swear their oaths before the Privy Council. In the case of a Demise of the Crown, the Privy Council – together with the
Lords Spiritual The Lords Spiritual are the bishops of the Church of England who serve in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom. 26 out of the 42 diocesan bishops and archbishops of the Church of England serve as Lords Spiritual (not counting retired archbi ...
, the
Lords Temporal The Lords Temporal are secular members of the House of Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament. These can be either life peers or hereditary peers, although the hereditary right to sit in the House of Lords was abolished for all but ...
, the
Lord Mayor of the City of London Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power over others, acting as a master, chief, or ruler. The appellation can also denote certain persons who hold a title of the peerage in the United Kingdom, or are ...
and
Court of Aldermen The Court of Aldermen forms part of the senior governance of the City of London Corporation. It comprises twenty-five aldermen of the City of London, presided over by the Lord Mayor (becoming senior alderman during his year of office). The Cou ...
of the
City of London The City of London is a city, ceremonial county and local government district that contains the historic centre and constitutes, alongside Canary Wharf, the primary central business district (CBD) of London. It constituted most of London f ...
as well as representatives of
Commonwealth realm A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state in the Commonwealth of Nations whose monarch and head of state is shared among the other realms. Each realm functions as an independent state, equal with the other realms and nations of the Commonwea ...
s – makes a proclamation declaring the accession of the new Sovereign and receives an oath from the new Monarch relating to the security of the
Church of Scotland The Church of Scotland ( sco, The Kirk o Scotland; gd, Eaglais na h-Alba) is the national church in Scotland. The Church of Scotland was principally shaped by John Knox, in the Reformation of 1560, when it split from the Catholic Church an ...
, as required by law. It is also customary for the new Sovereign to make an
allocution An allocution, or allocutus, is a formal statement made to the court by the defendant who has been found guilty prior to being sentenced. It is part of the criminal procedure in some jurisdictions using common law. Concept An allocution allo ...
to the Privy Council on that occasion, and this Sovereign's Speech is formally published in ''The London Gazette''. Any such Special Assembly of the Privy Council, convened to proclaim the accession of a new Sovereign and witness the Monarch's statutory oath, is known as an Accession Council. The last such meeting was held on 10 September 2022 following the death of
Elizabeth II Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; 21 April 1926 – 8 September 2022) was Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms from 6 February 1952 until her death in 2022. She was queen regnant of 32 sovereign states during ...
and the accession of
Charles III Charles III (Charles Philip Arthur George; born 14 November 1948) is King of the United Kingdom and the 14 other Commonwealth realms. He was the longest-serving heir apparent and Prince of Wales and, at age 73, became the oldest person to ...
.


Term of office

Membership is conferred for life. Formerly, the death of a monarch (" demise of the Crown") brought an immediate dissolution of the council, as all Crown appointments automatically lapsed. By the 18th century, it was enacted that the council would not be dissolved until up to six months after the demise of the Crown. By convention, however, the sovereign would reappoint all members of the council after its dissolution. In practice, therefore, membership continued without a break. In 1901, the
law Law is a set of rules that are created and are enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. It has been vari ...
was changed to ensure that Crown appointments became wholly unaffected by any succession of monarch. The sovereign, however, may remove an individual from the Privy Council. Former MP Elliot Morley was expelled on 8 June 2011, following his
conviction In law, a conviction is the verdict reached by a court of law finding a defendant guilty of a crime. The opposite of a conviction is an acquittal (that is, "not guilty"). In Scotland, there can also be a verdict of "not proven", which is co ...
on charges of false accounting in connection with the British parliamentary expenses scandal. Before this, the last individual to be expelled from the Council was Sir Edgar Speyer, Bt., who was removed on 13 December 1921 for collaborating with the enemy
German Empire The German Empire (), Herbert Tuttle wrote in September 1881 that the term "Reich" does not literally connote an empire as has been commonly assumed by English-speaking people. The term literally denotes an empire – particularly a hereditar ...
, during the
First World War World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, the United States, and the Ottoman Empire, with fighti ...
. Individuals can choose to resign, sometimes to avoid expulsion. Three members voluntarily left the Privy Council in the 20th century: John Profumo, who resigned on 26 June 1963; John Stonehouse, who resigned on 17 August 1976 and Jonathan Aitken, who resigned on 25 June 1997 following allegations of perjury. So far, four Privy Counsellors have resigned in the 21st century, three in the same year. On 4 February 2013, Chris Huhne announced that he would voluntarily leave the Privy Council after pleading guilty to
perverting the course of justice Perverting the course of justice is an offence committed when a person prevents justice from being served on themselves or on another party. In England and Wales it is a common law offence, carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Statu ...
. Lord Prescott stood down on 6 July 2013, in protest against delays in the introduction of press regulation, expecting others to follow.
Denis MacShane Denis MacShane (born Josef Denis Matyjaszek; 21 May 1948) is a British former politician, author and commentator who served as Minister of State for Europe from 2002 to 2005. He joined the Labour Party in 1970 and has held most party offices. ...
resigned on 9 October 2013, before an
Old Bailey The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, commonly referred to as the Old Bailey after the street on which it stands, is a criminal court building in central London, one of several that house the Crown Court of England and Wales. The ...
hearing at which he pleaded guilty of false accounting and was subsequently imprisoned. In April 2022, former
Prime Minister of Jamaica The prime minister of Jamaica is Jamaica's head of government, currently Andrew Holness. Holness, as leader of the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), was sworn in as prime minister on 7 September 2020, having been re-elected as a result of ...
P. J. Patterson resigned to make the case for Jamaica to become a republic.


Rights and privileges

The Privy Council as a whole is termed "
The Most Honourable The honorific prefix "The Most Honourable" is a form of address that is used in several countries. In the United Kingdom, it precedes the name of a marquess or marchioness. Overview In Jamaica, Governors-General of Jamaica, as well as their sp ...
" whilst its members individually, the Privy Counsellors, are entitled to be styled "
The Right Honourable ''The Right Honourable'' ( abbreviation: ''Rt Hon.'' or variations) is an honorific style traditionally applied to certain persons and collective bodies in the United Kingdom, the former British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations. The term ...
". Nonetheless, some nobles automatically have higher styles: non-royal dukes are styled "The Most Noble", and marquesses as "
The Most Honourable The honorific prefix "The Most Honourable" is a form of address that is used in several countries. In the United Kingdom, it precedes the name of a marquess or marchioness. Overview In Jamaica, Governors-General of Jamaica, as well as their sp ...
". Modern custom as recommended by '' Debrett's'' is to use the post-nominal letters "PC" in a social style of address for peers who are Privy Counsellors. For commoners, "The Right Honourable" is sufficient identification of their status as a Privy Counsellor and they do not use the post-nominal letters "PC". The Ministry of Justice revises current practice of this convention from time to time. Each Privy Counsellor has the right of personal access to the sovereign. Peers were considered to enjoy this right individually; members of the House of Commons possess the right collectively. In each case, personal access may only be used to tender advice on public affairs.N. Cox, ''Peerage Privileges'', pp. 25–6. Only Privy Counsellors can signify Royal Consent to the examination of a Bill affecting the rights of the Crown. Members of the Privy Council are privileged to be given advance notice of any prime ministerial decision to commit HM Armed Forces in enemy action. Privy Counsellors have the right to sit on the steps of the Sovereign's Throne in the Chamber of the House of Lords during debates, a privilege which was shared with heirs apparent of those
hereditary peer The hereditary peers form part of the peerage in the United Kingdom. As of September 2022, there are 807 hereditary peers: 29 dukes (including five royal dukes), 34 marquesses, 190 earls, 111 viscounts, and 443 barons (disregarding subsidi ...
s who were to become members of the
House of Lords The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by appointment, heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminst ...
before Labour's partial Reform of the Lords in 1999, diocesan bishops of the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is the established Christian church in England and the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain ...
yet to be
Lords Spiritual The Lords Spiritual are the bishops of the Church of England who serve in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom. 26 out of the 42 diocesan bishops and archbishops of the Church of England serve as Lords Spiritual (not counting retired archbi ...
, retired bishops who formerly sat in the House of Lords, the Dean of Westminster, Peers of Ireland, the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. While Privy Counsellors have the right to sit on the steps of the Sovereign's Throne they do so only as observers and are not allowed to participate in any of the workings of the House of Lords. Nowadays this privilege is rarely exercised. A notable recent instance of the exercising of this privilege was used by the Prime Minister,
Theresa May Theresa Mary May, Lady May (; née Brasier; born 1 October 1956) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 2016 to 2019. She previously served in David Cameron's c ...
, and David Lidington, who watched the opening of the debate of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 2017 in the House of Lords. Privy Counsellors are accorded a formal rank of precedence, if not already having a higher one. At the beginning of each new Parliament, and at the discretion of the Speaker, those members of the House of Commons who are Privy Counsellors usually take the oath of allegiance before all other members except the Speaker and the Father of the House (who is the member of the House who has the longest continuous service). Should a Privy Counsellor rise to speak in the House of Commons at the same time as another Honourable Member, the Speaker usually gives priority to the "Right Honourable" Member. This parliamentary custom, however, was discouraged under New Labour after 1998, despite the government not being supposed to exert influence over the Speaker.


Oath and initiation rite

The oath of the king's council (later the Privy Council) was first formulated in the early thirteenth century. This oath went through a series of revisions, but the modern form of the oath was essentially settled in 1571. It was regarded by some members of the Privy Council as criminal, and possibly
treason Treason is the crime of attacking a state authority to which one owes allegiance. This typically includes acts such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplo ...
ous, to disclose the
oath Traditionally an oath (from Anglo-Saxon ', also called plight) is either a statement of fact or a promise taken by a sacrality as a sign of verity. A common legal substitute for those who conscientiously object to making sacred oaths is to giv ...
administered to privy counsellors as they take office. However, the oath was officially made public by the Blair Government in a written parliamentary answer in 1998, as follows. It had also previously been read out in full in the House of Lords during debate by Lord Rankeillour on 21 December 1932, and has been openly printed in full in widely published books during the 19th and 20th centuries. Privy counsellors can choose to affirm their allegiance in similar terms, should they prefer not to take a religious oath. At the induction ceremony, the order of precedence places
Anglicans Anglicanism is a Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation, in the context of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. It is one of the ...
(being those of the
established church A state religion (also called religious state or official religion) is a religion or creed officially endorsed by a sovereign state. A state with an official religion (also known as confessional state), while not secular, is not necessarily a th ...
) before others. The initiation ceremony for newly appointed privy counsellors is held in private, and typically requires kneeling on a stool before the Sovereign and then
kissing hands To kiss hands is a constitutional term used in the United Kingdom to refer to the formal installation of the prime minister or other Crown-appointed government ministers to their office. Overview In the past, the term referred to the requirem ...
. According to ''The Royal Encyclopaedia'': "The new Privy Counsellor or Minister will extend his or her right hand, palm upwards, and, taking the Queen's hand lightly, will kiss it with no more than a touch of the lips." The ceremony has caused difficulties for Privy Counsellors who advocate
republicanism Republicanism is a political ideology centered on citizenship in a state organized as a republic. Historically, it emphasises the idea of self-rule and ranges from the rule of a representative minority or oligarchy to popular sovereignty. It ...
;
Tony Benn Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn (3 April 1925 – 14 March 2014), known between 1960 and 1963 as Viscount Stansgate, was a British politician, writer and diarist who served as a Cabinet minister in the 1960s and 1970s. A member of the Labour Party, ...
said in his diaries that he kissed his own thumb, rather than the Queen's hand, while
Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Bernard Corbyn (; born 26 May 1949) is a British politician who served as Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party from 2015 to 2020. On the political left of the Labour Party, Corbyn describes himself as a socialist ...
reportedly did not kneel. Not all members of the Privy Council go through the initiation ceremony; appointments are frequently made by an
Order in Council An Order-in-Council is a type of legislation in many countries, especially the Commonwealth realms. In the United Kingdom this legislation is formally made in the name of the monarch by and with the advice and consent of the Privy Council (''Ki ...
, although it is "rare for a party leader to use such a course."


Other councils

The Privy Council is one of the four principal councils of the sovereign. The other three are the courts of law, the '' Commune Concilium'' (Common Council, i.e. Parliament) and the '' Magnum Concilium'' (Great Council, i.e. the assembly of all the
peers of the realm A peer of the realm is a member of the highest aristocratic social order outside the ruling dynasty of the kingdom. Notable examples are: * a member of the peerages in the United Kingdom, who is a hereditary peer or a life peer * a member of th ...
). All are still in existence, or at least have never been formally abolished, but the ''Magnum Concilium'' has not been summoned since 1640 and was considered defunct even then. Several other privy councils have advised the sovereign. England and Scotland once had separate privy councils (the
Privy Council of England The Privy Council of England, also known as His (or Her) Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council (), was a body of advisers to the sovereign of the Kingdom of England. Its members were often senior members of the House of Lords and the House of ...
and
Privy Council of Scotland The Privy Council of Scotland ( — 1 May 1708) was a body that advised the Scottish monarch. In the range of its functions the council was often more important than the Estates in the running the country. Its registers include a wide range of ...
). The
Acts of Union 1707 The Acts of Union ( gd, Achd an Aonaidh) were two Act of Parliament, Acts of Parliament: the Union with Scotland Act 1706 passed by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act 1707 passed by the Parliament of Scotland. They put ...
united the two countries into the
Kingdom of Great Britain The Kingdom of Great Britain (officially Great Britain) was a sovereign country in Western Europe from 1 May 1707 to the end of 31 December 1800. The state was created by the 1706 Treaty of Union and ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, whi ...
and in 1708 the
Parliament of Great Britain The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in May 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland. The Acts ratified the treaty of Union which created a new unified Kingdo ...
abolished the Privy Council of Scotland. Thereafter there was one Privy Council of Great Britain sitting in London.
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, in north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the s ...
, on the other hand, continued to have a separate Privy Council even after the
Act of Union 1800 The Acts of Union 1800 (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a single 'Act of Union 1801') were parallel acts of the Parliament of Great Britain and the Parliament of Ireland which united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Irela ...
. The last appointments to the Privy Council of Ireland were made in 1922, when the greater part of Ireland separated from the United Kingdom. It was succeeded by the
Privy Council of Northern Ireland The Privy Council of Northern Ireland is a formal body of advisors to the sovereign and was a vehicle for the monarch's prerogative powers in Northern Ireland. It was modelled on the Privy Council of Ireland. The council was created in 1922 a ...
, which became dormant after the suspension of the
Parliament of Northern Ireland The Parliament of Northern Ireland was the home rule legislature of Northern Ireland, created under the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which sat from 7 June 1921 to 30 March 1972, when it was suspended because of its inability to restore or ...
in 1972. Canada has had its own Privy Council—the King's Privy Council for Canada—since 1867. While the Canadian Privy Council is specifically "for Canada", the Privy Council discussed above is not "for the United Kingdom"; to clarify the ambiguity where necessary, the latter was traditionally referred to as the Imperial Privy Council. Equivalent organs of state in other Commonwealth realms, such as Australia and New Zealand, are called Executive Councils.


See also

* List of Royal members of the Privy Council * List of current Privy Counsellors * List of senior members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom * List of Privy Council Orders * Committee of the Privy Council for Trade and Foreign Plantations * Clerk to the Privy Council * Court uniform and dress in the United Kingdom * Historic list of Privy Counsellors * Baronetage * ''Burke's Peerage & Baronetage''


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links


Privy Council Office homepage

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council homepage

BBC: Do we need the Privy Council?BBC Radio 4: Whats the point of the Privy Council?

BBC: Privy Council: Guide to its origins, powers and members
8 October 2015 *
Guardian Comment – Roy Hattersley on the Privy Council
{{authority control History of the Commonwealth of Nations 1708 establishments in Great Britain