The Crown is the oldest part of Britain’s system of government, but its powers have withered away over time, and are now broadly ritualistic.

Appointing a government

The day after a general election, the monarch invites the leader of the party that won the most seats in the House of Commons to become prime minister and form a government.

Opening and dissolving parliament

The monarch opens parliament every year at the tradition-heavy State Opening, and reads out the government’s plans for the next 12 months.

The event usually begins with the monarch’s procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster.

Wearing the Imperial State Crown, the monarch proceeds to the House of Lords.

An official known as Black Rod is sent to summon the Commons, and the door is shut in his or her face to symbolise its independence from the monarchy.

The Crown also formally dissolves parliament before a general election.

Royal Assent

After a bill has been approved by the House of Commons and the House of Lords, it is sent to the monarch to approve and turn into a law.

Although the monarch could technically refuse, the practice is, in reality, a rubber-stamping exercise.

The most recent monarch to refuse assent was queen Anne, in 1708.

Prime ministerial confidant

Queen Elizabeth II held weekly meetings with all of her prime ministers, in which they would tell her of their plans and concerns.

“They tell me what is going on or if they have any problems, and sometimes I can help in some way as well,” she said in a 1992 documentary.

“They know I can be impartial and it is rather nice to feel one is a sponge.”

Creating lords and knights

The monarch has the power to appoint lords to sit in parliament, but this is only exercised on the advice of government ministers.

The monarch also personally confers knighthoods, which are given to those who have made a notable contribution to British society, in any walk of life.

The government provides the monarch with a list of nominees each year for approval for public honours.

Constitutional crises

The monarch is allowed to exercise their prerogative powers “in grave constitutional crisis” when they are permitted to go against ministerial advice, although it has never happened in modern times.

Head of church

As supreme governor of the Church of England, Britain’s monarch has the power to appoint bishops and archbishops, but again this is exercised only on the advice of a Church Commission.

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