EXTENDED CHRONOLOGICAL STUDY – 5a Power of Monarchs
Monarchy is the oldest form of government in the United Kingdom.
In a monarchy, a king or queen is Head of State. The British Monarchy is currently known as a constitutional monarchy. This means that, while The Sovereign is Head of State, the ability to make and pass legislation resides with an elected Parliament.
Although The Sovereign no longer has a political or executive role, he or she continues to play an important part in the life of the nation.
As Head of State, The Monarch undertakes constitutional and representational duties which have developed over one thousand years of history. In addition to these State duties, The Monarch has a less formal role as ‘Head of Nation’. The Sovereign acts as a focus for national identity, unity and pride; gives a sense of stability and continuity; officially recognises success and excellence; and supports the ideal of voluntary service.
Changing power of the Monarchy
In the Middle Ages, the king was the most important man in England. He ruled over all the people in his kingdom with the support of his barons and the Church. The king owned all the land and gave estates to his followers. In return for their estates, the king’s followers promised to be loyal to him. They also provided him with knights to serve in his army and gave him money and advice.
King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. The Magna Carta was important because it promised to protect English people’s rights and freedoms. In Magna Carta, John promised to treat people fairly and justly. This was the first time that an English king had been challenged by his own subjects for being a harsh ruler, so that the king was forced to agree to a list of reforms that were written down.
Over the course of history, monarch have been forced to pass their power over to Parliament. Charles I was even executed by Parliament in 1649. By the end of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1901, all power lay in the hands of Parliament in Westminster.
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