A King never writes a letter to anybody outside his family circle. All other correspondence has to be conducted through one of his secretaries. Nor does King George accept invitations to dine or stop with a subject. What he does when he wishes to pay such a visit, is to invite himself. Another strictly observed point of etiquette, is that on ascending the throne, a King shall withdraw from any clubs to which he has hitherto belonged.
In England it Assumes a Number of Curious Phases
Things the King Cannot Do...
He is Barred from Accepting Gifts From Individuals, He May Not Belong to a Club and May Not Marry Without Parliament's Consent
A King never writes a letter to anybody outside his family circle. All other correspondence has to be conducted through one of his secretaries. Nor does King George accept invitations to dine or stop with a subject. What he does when he wishes to pay such a visit, is to invite himself. Another strictly observed point of etiquette, is that on ascending the throne, a King shall withdraw from any clubs to which he has hitherto belonged. Similarly he cannot become a Free Mason, and if he happens to be one at the date of his ascension, he must resign from the craft. King George, however, has not been initiated.
Even in affairs of the heart a sovereign must bow to the will of others. Although King Cophetua might have loved and shared his throne with a beggar maid, the Royal Marriage Act would render the occurrence of any such romantic union impossible in England. Members of the blood royal must have the sanction of Parliament before they can marry, and this would certainly not be accorded unless the birth and position of the lady were beyond reproach.
An English King's position toward the law is somewhat peculiar. Theoretically, he is above the law. In practice, however, he has to obey it, just as have his subjects. He must observe the established legal system of the country. Any royal proclamation which he issues, is only binding in so far as it is founded upon an existing law. It cannot alter the common law or create a new offense, nor can a King set up private tribunals, such as the Star Chamber, or add to the jurisdiction of a court by a special act of Parliament, it has also been decided that if his Majesty were to lose an action brought against him by the revenue authorities, he would be liable for the payment of costs.
By the law of the land the King cannot possibly commit an offense. Any injury or wrong suffered by a subject at his hands has to be attributed to the “mistake of his advisers;” hence it happens that King George is the only person in Great Britain who cannot arrest a suspected felon, even if such a one were to be seen by him entering Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. The reason for this is because no action for wrongful arrest could lie against him, and therefore if the person arrested by him were proved innocent there would then be a wrong without a remedy. Another legal disability of the King is that he is barred of all rights in matters relating to land after a lapse of sixty years. He is also prohibited from serving on a jury or from giving evidence.
Until so comparatively recent a period as 1870 if a subject were convicted of treason or felony, the King could claim his property. Another lapsed prerogative of the crown is one known as “corody.” During its existence, a King who wanted to advance the interests of a royal chaplain could compel a bishop to support such a clergyman until a benefice had been found for him. Nowadays, he has not even the right of founding a bishopric or creating ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Similarly he must always be a member of the Church of England and cannot change his religion.
The theory that the King “reigns, but does not govern” is amply borne out by the political system of the country. While the members of Parliament are his Majesty's “faithful commons,” they have certain privileges which he himself does not possess. Thus, King George can summon or prorogue Parliament at will, but he cannot prolong it beyond a definite period. Similarly he is absolutely debarred from imposing any sort of taxation whatever without first securing the consent of Parliament.
So jealously guarded is this privilege that a King cannot create new officers with new fees or annex new fees to existing officers, as such a course would be considered as imposing a fresh tax. In bygone times, however, when an English Monarch was in want of funds, he would levy taxes right and left and without asking anybody. The franchise does not extend to English monarchs. King George is one of the few men possessing a genuine stake in the country without the privilege of recording a vote. — London Bellman, 1911
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia