Is Queen Elizabeth as Powerful as Everybody Thinks?

It is common knowledge that, historically, kings and queens have more power at their disposal than elected officials such as presidents or prime ministers. Queen Elizabeth herself is known for occasionally exercising some of these abilities. She participates in Parliament and it has been said that her word is viewed as final in the royal family.

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth | Samir Hussein/WireImage

But just how powerful is Queen Elizabeth, really? Is she as powerful as people seem to think? Read on below to find out the answer.

How much power does Queen Elizabeth have?

In the past, British monarchs were all-ruling and could do almost anything they wanted. However, with the rise of republics and the beliefs that rulers must have consent of the governed, kings and queens in the U.K. today have very limited power compared to in the past.

With that said, they still can do significantly more than the average person and are considered an important part of the government. Queen Elizabeth, for example, is responsible for opening and closing Parliament sessions. She also opens the Parliamentary year annually in May.

The queen, technically, also has the power to fire elected officials in the House of Commons, but she has actually never done that before.

Queen Elizabeth has another power as well. She has to sign off on proposed bills before they become laws. This means that she technically does have the power to reject laws, but again, that has never come into play.

Other abilities that Queen Elizabeth has include pardoning criminals, issuing and withdrawing passports, and declaring war.

Is Queen Elizabeth considered a powerful monarch?

While Queen Elizabeth has more power than most average citizens, the truth is that she is not as powerful as one might think. She definitely has some power to sway the government in her favor, but she does not make use of it often because that would make her and the royal family rather unpopular. The existence of the monarchy in the U.K. rests on whether people like Queen Elizabeth or not and, as such, she often plays it safe and only uses her power for ceremonial purposes.

There are other countries, however, where monarchs actually can do a lot more than Queen Elizabeth.

In Liechtenstein, for example, the royal family does influence politics often. They have the power to veto laws and, unlike Queen Elizabeth, they are not afraid to use it from time to time. Most famously, in 2011, the country set out a referendum to legalize abortion, but Prince Alois of Liechtenstein (not technically a monarch, but has been involved in politics in place of his father) said that he would use his veto power to reject the bill if voters actually end up being in favor of legalizing abortion. This has made the royal family lose some popularity, but they still retain the veto power.

In Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, the current sultan, was criticized when he passed a law to stone LGBT people, though he has since retracted the capital punishment amidst international outrage.

In other places, such as Saudi Arabia and Thailand, monarchs have been known to get rid of people who oppose their rule. As such, many citizens cannot openly criticize the royal families there.

The British monarchy could lose more of its power in the future

Even though Queen Elizabeth has little power compared to some other monarchs around the world, it is believed that after she leaves the throne, the next monarch would have even less power.

There have already been a lot of talks in recent years of how outdated the royal family is in the 21st century. Quite a number of British people would like to see this institution abolished once and for all.

Since the royal family is still quite popular, it’s likely that instead of completely abandoning it, the country could strip future monarchs of more power, especially in government. People might realize that they do not need the queen or king to open Parliament sessions or sign off on laws and these ceremonial roles would go away.