The King has moved to add Princess Anne and Prince Edward to the list of royals who can stand in for him for official duties. Charles has made a request for the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex to be made Counsellors of State.
The monarch’s signed message was read to the House of Lords today by the Lord Chamberlain, Lord Parker of Minsmere, who is the most senior official in the Royal Household.
Charles said the extension of the number of royals who can deputise for him was to “ensure continued efficiency of public business when I am unavailable”.
Counsellors of State can carry out constitutional duties if the monarch is unwell or overseas.
They currently include Queen Consort Camilla and the first four adults in the line of succession – Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice.
But there have been ongoing questions over the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of York remaining in the pool of royals who can act on behalf of the King as they are no longer working members of the monarchy.
Speaking at the despatch box in the upper chamber, Lord Parker said he had the honour to present a message from the King “signed by his own hand”.
The independent crossbencher told peers: “The message is as follows: ‘To ensure continued efficiency of public business when I am unavailable such as while I am undertaking official duties overseas, I confirm that I would be most content, should Parliament see fit, for the number of people who may be called upon to act as Counsellors of State under the terms of the Regency Acts 1937 to 1953 to be increased to include my sister and brother – the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex and Forfar – both of whom have previously undertaken this role’.”
There were approving shouts of “hear, hear” from the red benches at the end of the King’s message being read out.
Provisions for Counsellors of State are made under the Regency Acts 1937 to 1953.
There have been continuing questions over the feasibility of either Andrew or Harry stepping in to carry out their roles.
The Duke of York stood down from public duties in 2019 following his disastrous Newsnight interview about his association with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
And he lost his HRH style and military roles earlier this year ahead of paying millions to settle a civil sex assault case brought against him in the US by Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre.
Andrew has always strenuously denied the claims and the settlement was not an admission of guilt on the part of the Duke.
Meanwhile, the Duke of Sussex is living in California with Meghan Markle after quitting royal duties in 2020 for a new life of personal and financial freedom across the pond.
It is thought any changes to legislation to increase the number of counsellors would be completed later this year before the prospect of the King and Queen Consort going on overseas tours in 2023, which may coincide with the Prince and Princess of Wales also being out of the country.
Counsellors of State are authorised to carry out most of the official duties of the monarch like attending Privy Council meetings, signing routine documents and receiving the credentials of new ambassadors to the UK.
But some core constitutional functions cannot be delegated, like appointing a prime minister or creating peers.
The message was also delivered in the House of Commons.
Raising a point of order, Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt said: “It may be of help if I inform the House that honourable members will have the opportunity to consider a response to His Majesty’s gracious message ahead of the Opposition Day debate tomorrow.
“It may also help if I inform the House that there will be legislation relating to this message for the House to consider in due course. Should the House agree to the humble address as first business tomorrow, that legislation will provide a proper opportunity to debate the matter that has been raised.”
It comes after royal sources last month said Charles was likely to expand the list of Counsellors of State.
Questions were already being raised about Andrew and Harry remaining in the roles during the late Queen’s reign.