UK Royal Family: What does the King do?

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King Charles II and Queen Camilla on the balcony at Buckingham Palace after the coronationImage source, Getty Images

King Charles and Queen Camilla are in France on their first state visit to the country.

Millions of people around the world watched as Charles and Camilla were crowned at Westminster Abbey in May.

What does the King do?

The King is the UK head of state, but his powers are largely symbolic and ceremonial, and he remains politically neutral.

He receives daily dispatches from the government in a red leather box, including briefings ahead of important meetings, or documents needing his signature.

The prime minister normally meets the King on a Wednesday at Buckingham Palace.

These meetings are completely private, and no official records are kept of what is said.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Rishi Sunak is the second prime minister of King Charles's reign

The King also has a number of official parliamentary roles:

  • Appointing a government - the leader of the party that wins a general election is usually called to Buckingham Palace, where they are invited to form a government. The King also formally dissolves the government before a general election
  • State Opening and the King's Speech - the King begins the parliamentary year with the State Opening ceremony, where he sets out the government's plans in a speech delivered from the throne in the House of Lords
  • Royal Assent - when a piece of legislation is passed through Parliament, it must be formally approved by the King in order to become law. The last time Royal Assent was refused was in 1708

The King also hosts visiting heads of state - such as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa - and regularly meets foreign ambassadors and high commissioners.

For his first state visit, Charles visited Germany, where he became the first British monarch to address the country's parliament, speaking in both English and German.

Image source, Christian Hartmann / Reuters
Image caption,
French President Emmanuel Macron, his wife Brigitte Macron, King Charles and Queen Camilla pose at the Elysee Palace

He is also expected to deploy his French language skills when he addresses the Senate during his three-day state visit to France.

The King is also head of the Commonwealth, an association of 56 independent countries spanning 2.5 billion people - and head of state for 14 of these, known as the Commonwealth realms, as well as the Crown dependencies: the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Where does the Royal Family get its money?

The Royal Family receives an annual payment from the taxpayer, known as the Sovereign Grant, which is used to pay for official expenses, such as the upkeep of properties and staff costs.

The amount is based on a proportion of the profits of the Crown Estate, a property business owned by the monarch but run independently. It had assets worth £16.5bn in 2022.

The Sovereign Grant was worth £86.3m in 2022-2023, the same as in 2021-2022. But total spending for the year was £107.5m, a 5% increase on the £102.4m spent the previous year, with more than £20m drawn from financial reserves to cover the shortfall.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A 10-year refurbishment programme for Buckingham Palace began in 2017

The King also receives money from a private estate called the Duchy of Lancaster, which is passed down from monarch to monarch. It covers more than 18,000 hectares of land, including property in central London. Worth £654m, it generates about £20m a year in profits.

The Duke of Cornwall (currently William, Prince of Wales) benefits from the Duchy of Cornwall, which mainly owns land in the south-west of England. Worth £1bn, it generated a net surplus of £24m in 2022-23.

The King and William receive the profits from the duchies personally, and can spend the money as they wish. Both voluntarily pay income tax on the proceeds.

In addition, some other Royal Family members have private art, jewellery and stamp collections which they can sell or use to generate income as they wish.

What happened at the Coronation?

Charles and Camilla were crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury in front of more than 2,000 guests, including global politicians, fellow kings and queens, religious leaders, celebrities and community champions.

During the ceremony at Westminster Abbey, the King was anointed with "holy oil", and received the orb and sceptre, symbols of royalty.

Media caption,

Watch King Charles III be crowned

Afterwards, huge crowds lined the streets of central London to watch the King and Queen return to Buckingham Palace in a mile-long procession featuring more than 4,000 members of the armed forces from the UK and the Commonwealth.

Take That and Katy Perry headlined a concert at Windsor Castle, which also featured the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Ballet, the Royal College of Music and the Royal Opera.

On the final day of Coronation celebrations, several members of the Royal Family joined volunteers at projects across the UK, while 30,000 charities arranged 55,000 events as part of the Big Help Out initiative.

More than 60 protesters were arrested during the Coronation, including the head of the anti-monarchy group Republic, Graham Smith.

How was Charles's accession marked in Scotland?

Two months after the Westminster Abbey Coronation, the King was presented with the Scottish crown jewels, in a special service of thanksgiving at St Giles' Cathedral, in Edinburgh.

He was given the sword, orb and the crown worn by Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1543, collectively known as the the Honours of Scotland.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The King was presented with the crown by the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon

The service was followed by a 21-gun salute from Edinburgh Castle and a flypast by the Royal Air Force's Red Arrows.

Thousands lined the Royal Mile, in Scotland's capital, to watch the procession, including some protesters chanting: "Not my King".

Who else is in the Royal Family?

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
After the Coronation, members of the Royal Family watched a flypast from the the Palace balcony
  • Prince William is the elder son of King Charles and his first wife, the late Princess Diana. After the death of the Queen, he became the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall while retaining his previous Duke of Cambridge title. He is married to Catherine, Princess of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall and Cambridge. They have three children: Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis
  • The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) was the Queen's second child and only daughter. She is married to Vice Adm Timothy Laurence and has two children with her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips: Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall
  • The Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Edward) was the Queen's youngest child. He is married to the Duchess of Edinburgh (Sophie Rhys-Jones). They have two children: Lady Louise and James, Earl of Wessex
  • The Duke of York (Prince Andrew) was the Queen's second son. He has two daughters with his former wife, the Duchess of York (Sarah Ferguson): Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie. Prince Andrew stepped down as a "working Royal" in 2019 after a controversial BBC Newsnight interview about allegations that he had sexually assaulted Virginia Giuffre. In February 2022, he paid an undisclosed sum to settle the civil sexual assault case Ms Guiffre had brought against him in the US
  • The Duke of Sussex (Prince Harry) is William's younger brother. He is married to the Duchess of Sussex (Meghan Markle). They have two children: Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet. In 2020, they announced they were stepping back as senior royals and moved to California

How does succession work?

The order of succession sets out which member of the Royal Family takes over as monarch when the existing one dies or abdicates. First in line - the heir to the throne - is the monarch's eldest child.

Since Royal succession rules were amended in 2013, sons no longer take precedence over their older sisters.

King Charles's heir is his elder son, the Prince of Wales.

William's eldest child Prince George is second-in-line to the throne, and his daughter Princess Charlotte is third. Her younger brother Prince Louis is fourth and Prince Harry is fifth.

A YouGov opinion poll of more than 2,000 adults in Britain ahead of the first anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's death suggested a sharp generational divide in attitudes towards the Royal Family.

Overall, 62% wanted to keep the monarchy, with 26% backing an elected head of state.

But while 80% of the over-65s supported the monarchy, only 37% of 18 to 24-year-olds agreed.

Similarly, 75% of the over-65s believed the Royal Family was good value for money, but only 34% of 18 to 24-year-olds felt the same.

In terms of King Charles's performance, 59% thought he was "personally doing a good job".

A decade earlier, the same survey found 17% wanted an elected head of state.

There was also less support for the royals in Scotland or Wales than in England, where London has higher levels of people against the monarchy than elsewhere else in the country.

Where do the Royal Family live?

The King and Queen's official residence, Buckingham Palace, is undergoing a 10-year £369m refurbishment, so they continue to split their time between Clarence House in London and Highgrove in Gloucestershire.

Other Royal residences include Windsor Castle, Sandringham, in Norfolk, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh, and Balmoral Castle, in Aberdeenshire.

In August 2022, the Prince and Princess of Wales moved from Kensington Palace in west London to live in Adelaide Cottage, on the Windsor Estate.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The Prince and Princess of Wales with their children on their first day at Lambrook School in Berkshire

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