Counsellor of State

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In the United Kingdom, Counsellors of State are senior members of the British royal family to whom the monarch, currently Elizabeth II, delegates certain state functions and powers when not in the United Kingdom or unavailable for other reasons (such as short-term incapacity or sickness). Any two Counsellors of State may preside over Privy Council meetings, sign state documents, or receive the credentials of new ambassadors to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

While the establishment of a regency carries with it the suspension of the monarch from the personal discharge of the royal functions, when Counsellors of State are appointed, both the sovereign and the counsellors can—the Counsellors within the limits of their delegation of authority—discharge the royal functions. Thus, the monarch can give instructions to the Counsellors of State or even personally discharge a certain royal prerogative when the counsellors are in place. The Counsellors of State and regents always act in the name and on behalf of the sovereign.

The Counsellors of State do not assume the discharge of the royal functions automatically when the sovereign is unavailable. Instead, when an instance of travel abroad or temporary unavailability occurs, the monarch must sign specific letters patent delegating the royal functions (or some of the royal functions) to the Counsellors of State and fixing the duration of the delegation. The monarch may at any time amend or revoke the said letters patent.


The first Counsellors of State were created in 1911 by an Order in Council of George V, and this process was repeated on each occasion of the King's absence or incapacity. The Regency Act 1937 established in law those individuals that could serve as Counsellors of State. The Counsellors of State are the consort of the monarch and the first four people in the line of succession who meet the qualifications. These qualifications are the same as those for a regent: they must be at least 21 years old (except the heir-apparent or presumptive, who need only be 18 years old), they must be domiciled in Britain, and they must be a British subject. One exception was made for Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (see below).

Since the passage of the Regency Act 1937, the only person to have been a Counsellor of State while not a queen consort, prince or princess was George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood (although Princess Maud of Fife, who served as a Counsellor of State between 1942 and 1945, styled herself simply Lady Southesk); prior to that the Lord Chancellor, the Lord President of the Council, the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury had been appointed to the position by George V.

List of current Counsellors of State

As of November 2020, the Counsellors of State are:

Image Name
Duke of Edinburgh 33 Allan Warren.jpg Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Charles 2012.jpg Prince Charles, Prince of Wales
The Duke of Cambridge.jpg Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
Prince Harry in the US.jpg Prince Henry of Wales
Príncipe André do Reino Unido.jpg Prince Andrew, Duke of York

Past Counsellors of State

The following is a list of all the people eligible to have served as a Counsellor of State, since the passage of the Regency Act 1937, in chronological order. Note that this list contains the dates not of when they served, but when they were eligible to serve.

George VI

Image Name Period Relation
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.jpg HM The Queen
1937 – 6 February 1952 Consort
Dukeofgloucester.jpg HRH The Duke of Gloucester
1937 – 6 February 1952 Brother
George 1st Kent.png HRH The Duke of Kent
1937 – 25 August 1942 Brother
Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood.jpg HRH The Princess Royal
1937 – 6 February 1952 Sister
Alexandra Fife.jpg HRH Princess Arthur of Connaught,
Duchess of Fife

1937 – 21 April 1944 Cousin
60px HG The Duke of Connaught
and Strathearn

Never served
25 August 1942 – 26 April 1943 Second
Princess Maud of Fife as an adult.jpg HH Princess Maud,
Countess of Southesk

26 April 1943 – 7 February 1944 Cousin
60px The Rt Hon. The Earl of Harewood
7 February 1944 – 21 August 1951 Nephew
Women at War 1939 - 1945 TR2835.jpg HRH The Princess Elizabeth,
Duchess of Edinburgh

21 April 1944 – 6 February 1952 Heir,
Princess Margaret.jpg HRH The Princess Margaret
21 August 1951 – 6 February 1952 Daughter

Elizabeth II

Image Name Period Relation
Princess Margaret.jpg HRH The Princess Margaret,
Countess of Snowdon

6 February 1952 – 10 March 1985 Sister
Dukeofgloucester.jpg HRH The Duke of Gloucester
6 February 1952 – 10 June 1974 Uncle
Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood.jpg HRH The Princess Royal
6 February 1952 – 25 December 1957 Aunt
60px The Rt Hon. The Earl of Harewood
6 February 1952 – 9 October 1956 Cousin
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.jpg HM The Queen Mother
1953 – 30 March 2002[1] Mother
HRH The Duke of Kent Allan Warren.jpg HRH The Duke of Kent
9 October 1956 – 26 August 1965 Cousin
HRH The Princess Alexandra 04 25 10.png HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent
25 December 1957 – 18 December 1962 Cousin
60px HRH Prince William of Gloucester
18 December 1962 – 15 August 1971 Cousin
The Duke of Gloucester in 2008 cropped.jpg HRH The Duke of Gloucester
26 August 1965 – 20 November 1966
10 June 1974 – 19 February 1981
The Princess Royal.jpg HRH The Princess Royal
15 August 1971 – 21 June 2003 Daughter
Prins Edward, earl av Wessex - version 4.jpg HRH The Earl of Wessex
10 March 1985 – 15 September 2005 Son

See also


  1. Queen Elizabeth lost her position as Counsellor of State when she was widowed. However, the Regency Act 1953 made a special exception, including her as a Counsellor of State.