Is Prince Andrew a Counsellor of State? Role explained - could he step in for King Charles III?

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Prince Andrew walked behind the Queen’s coffin on Wednesday but was not permitted to wear a military uniform

King Charles III acceded the throne following the death of his mother, the Queen on Thursday (8 September).

The passing of the UK’s longest-reigning monarch has changed the Royal line of succession. Controversial member of the Royal Family Prince Andrew still appears on this list and has also been visible at the events involving his late mother’s coffin.

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Indeed, he was loudly heckled by a member of the public during a procession to St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh.

The Duke of York stepped away from Royal duties and public life in January 2022 amid allegations of sexual assault and questions about his relationship with convicted sex offenders Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

Prince Andrew has been a visible presence at the events involving the Queen’s coffin (image: AFP/Getty Images)Prince Andrew has been a visible presence at the events involving the Queen’s coffin (image: AFP/Getty Images)
Prince Andrew has been a visible presence at the events involving the Queen’s coffin (image: AFP/Getty Images) | POOL/AFP via Getty Images

So, is Prince Andrew a Counsellor of State - and what does the title mean?

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What is a Counsellor of State?

The role of Counsellor of State is little known but highly important for the monarchy. When the King cannot attend to his official duties - whether that’s through illness or being abroad - the Counsellor will fill in for him.

This has happened in recent years when the Queen’s work schedule was managed to protect her health, with then-Prince Charles and Prince William both appearing on her behalf at events such as the Armistice Day commemorations at the Cenotaph.

By law - the Regency Act of 1937 (amended in 1942) - the King or Queen of the UK has to have their spouse and the four Royals who are next in line to the throne and over the age of 21 as Counsellors of State. The position existed before 1937 and had been used several times since 1728, but it was never formally written into law before this date.

Counsellors of State can do most of the monarch’s official duties. They can:

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  • Attend Privy Council meetings (essentially, a group of advisers to the sovereign who are either senior MPs or ministers or have previously served in these roles) 
  • Sign routine documents
  • Receive the credentials of new ambassadors to the UK
Princess Anne is not a Counsellor of State (image: Getty Images)Princess Anne is not a Counsellor of State (image: Getty Images)
Princess Anne is not a Counsellor of State (image: Getty Images) | Getty Images

But there are also several things they cannot do, including:

  • Anything relating to the Commonwealth
  • Dissolving Parliament (unless they have instructions to do so from the King)
  • Granting peerages
  • Appointing a new Prime Minister

Is Prince Andrew a Counsellor of State?

Prince Andrew serves as a Counsellor of State. He has held the position since 1981 when he turned 21.

With Charles now King and with Princes William and Harry moving up in the line of succession as a result, Prince Andrew now has his daughter Princess Beatrice as a fellow Counsellor of State. The Queen Consort Camilla can now also deputise for Charles.

If King Charles is still serving when Prince George and Princess Charlotte reach the age of 21, Prince Andrew will no longer be a Counsellor of State.

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With Prince Harry spending most of his time in the USA, it means Prince Andrew is more likely to be called upon to serve as Counsellor of State (image: AFP/Getty Images)With Prince Harry spending most of his time in the USA, it means Prince Andrew is more likely to be called upon to serve as Counsellor of State (image: AFP/Getty Images)
With Prince Harry spending most of his time in the USA, it means Prince Andrew is more likely to be called upon to serve as Counsellor of State (image: AFP/Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

The reason why Princess Anne does not hold the title is because male heirs were given precedence to the throne under a rule known as male royal primogeniture when she was born. This rule was scrapped when Prince George was born in 2013, so that female heirs now have equal rights to male heirs.

Questions have been raised about whether the laws around Counsellors of State should be altered in the wake of the controversy around Prince Andrew.

While it is unlikely he would ever be called up to perform the role, the fact that Prince Harry now lives in the USA means it is much more likely than it has been for several years.

To change the current Counsellors of State, an Act of Parliament would need to be passed by MPs and Lords.

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