3. The evolution of parliamentary monarchy has been shaped to a considerable extent by British constitutional practice. Following the failed attempts of the Stuart Kings to establish an absolute monarchy along continental (French) lines in the constitutional struggles of the 17th century, the Bill of Rights (1688) upheld the principle that sovereignty does not reside in the King alone, but in the King and the parliamentary houses acting in concert, ie the ‘King in Parliament’. The King may not take any major decision—to make or suspend laws, levy money, raise and keep a standing army—without the consent of Parliament. While the prerogative powers were thus reduced but not abolished by the Bill of Rights, the personal influence of the monarch on the exercise of these powers dwindled already during the 18th century. A constitutional convention developed that the monarch did not exercise the royal powers according to his discretion, but on the advice of the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister which proposed and implemented the relevant decisions and defended them in Parliament. In the 19th century, the British King/Queen had thus been reduced to a largely ceremonial role, in which his/her political influence, if any, was wielded in an informal manner and had become encapsulated in the ‘three rights’ assigned to the monarch by Bagehot: ‘…the sovereign has, under a constitutional monarchy such as ours, three rights—the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn. And a king of great sense and sagacity would want no others’ (Bagehot 67).
4. This process continued in the 20th and early 21st century. While constitutional scholars like Sir Ivor Jennings in the middle of the 20th century had still mused about ‘personal prerogatives’ and ‘reserve powers’ of the monarch, it is today widely accepted that even in times of constitutional crisis the room for personal involvement of the Queen is minimal (see Jennings, I, Cabinet Government, (CUP 3rd Edition 1969)). The mere theorising about the existence of such ‘personal’ powers and the circumstances in which they may be used is seen as potentially damaging to the monarchy (Blackburn 168). This is the last stage in a long development in which any notion of dynastic legitimacy has gradually disappeared and the idea of popular sovereignty, though largely ignored by positive constitutional law, has come to permeate the functioning of state institutions in Britain and also to determine the survival and the outlook of the monarchy.
5. The British version of parliamentary monarchy is still directly relevant in a number of countries which were formerly part of the former British Empire and today are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. In addition to being the head of state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Queen Elizabeth II in her personal capacity in 2016 is also the monarch of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu. In the Queen’s absence, ie most of the time, the monarchical functions are discharged in these countries by the Governor General. Even less than in Britain, where the monarch is present almost during the whole year, does she have any substantial role in the government and the politics of the countries concerned, apart from the ceremonial functions of head of state. While it is thus formally correct to qualify these countries as ‘parliamentary monarchies’, they effectively operate as parliamentary systems pure and simple.
6. The British monarchy also served as a model for the establishment of constitutional monarchies on the European continent since the 19th century. Among the constitutions inspired by the British model were the Norwegian Constitution of 1814, the 1831 Belgian Constitution and the Statuto Albertino of 1848, the constitution of the Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia which became the constitution of Italy following unification. In all these constitutions, the executive powers were vested in the King but exercised by the government while legislative powers were granted to the King and the bicameral Parliament which needed to work together to pass legislation. This was part of a general trend in Europe: most countries which emerged as independent nations in the 19th century adopted constitutions which introduced one version of a parliamentary monarchy or other, often influenced by the British experience. However, at the end of World War I the constitutional monarchies in Central Europe were abolished, while the remaining monarchies in Eastern and South Eastern Europe followed suit in the wake of World War II, with Greece being the last constitutional monarchy in South Eastern Europe that was toppled by a military coup in 1967.