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Prince Charles is celebrating his 72nd birthday today and despite being well above the national retirement age, he is yet to take on the top job. The question of whether Charles could become king before Queen Elizabeth II’s death has been subject to speculation for decades. Charles has been preparing to take the crown for his entire adult life but it is unlikely to unhappen early, unless the Queen, 94, is “incapacitated”, a constitutional expert has claimed.
While Charles is unlikely to become king before the Queen’s death there is a regency act in place that could see him take on more powers when the Queen turns 95.
Constitutional expert Iain MacMarthanne told Express.co.uk: “Regency Acts are the legislative means by which Parliament regulates and makes provision in the event that the sovereign is either incapacitated, a minor, or absent from the realm.
“Not until 1937 did the Regency Act finally consolidate provisions for these eventualities.
“Hitherto, any legislation concerning a regency was made on an ad hoc basis.”
Mr MacMarthanne added: “The 1937 Regency Act changed this and set the future framework of a regency should it be required.
“Amendments were made in 1953 but the main thrust of the 1937 Act remained intact.
“Throughout her tenure speculation has always been rife that the Queen would either abdicate or, especially in later years, invoke the Regency Act.
“Much of this, it seems, has been driven by the fact she is a woman and the erroneously perceived notion that being a sovereign is the business of a man.
“Since Prince Charles attained his majority her pending abdication has been a persistent narrative that has adjoined her reign, beginning in earnest at the time of her Silver Jubilee some forty or more years ago.”
Mr MacMarthanne dismissed reports of the Queen’s intentions to abdicate or invoke the Regency Act as “pure speculation.”
The expert said: “The Queen does not really speak, she is not given to proffering her thoughts or feelings, and unless someone has been privy to the private conversations between her and her private secretary and prime minster then discussions about an abdication, or an application to invoke the Regency Act, is pure speculation.”
Mr MacMarthanne claims the Queen’s previous statements in regards to her role as sovereign heavily suggest it is one she intends to hold for life.
He said: “What is known is that aged twenty-one the Queen dedicated her life to the service of her people however long or short her life may be, and has, on subsequent occasions, returned to that dedication and remade it.
“She is known to be a religious woman who believes that at the time of her Coronation an Oath was taken which tied her to being Queen for the remainder of her natural life.”
Mr MacMarthanne also suggested that Edward VIII’s abdication is considered a blot on the Windsor Family’s history and would make abdication inconceivable to the Queen.
He added: “It is believed that within the family there is an antipathy towards abdication owing to its association with dereliction of duty in the guise of Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor.
“On this evidence, it seems improbable that the Queen will ever abdicate.”
While the Queen might never intend to abdicate by choice, there are circumstances such as “incapacitation” in which she may have no other option than to pass the crown to Charles.
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Mr MacMarthanne said: “Likewise, unless owing to her actual incapacitation, or if the monarchy, as an institution, might be better served if she relinquished her constitutional duties to her heir, then it seems highly unlikely that a regency would be required.”
He claimed the notion of the Queen abdicating or invoking the Regency Act upon her 95th birthday as “the stuff of Hollywood fictional happy endings.”
The expert said: “The notion that such an eventuality might neatly segue by happenstance upon her ninety-fifth year seems the stuff of Hollywood fictional happy endings, and would be quite out of character for the Queen.
“Her mother, let’s not forget, albeit without the constitutional duties her daughter has, managed to soldier on with public life beyond her 100th birthday, and as has already been happening for years, some of the duties previously carried out exclusively by the Queen, are now being undertaken by other family members.”
Explaining what would happen if the Regency Act was invoked, Mr MacMarthanne said: “In the event that a regency was, for whatever reason, required, its application would legally facilitate the transference of sovereign power from the monarch to the regent, allowing for the execution of the monarch’s constitutional duties in respect of parliament, the judiciary, and the church.
“The regency would in no way interfere with the monarch’s titular position as queen or king.”
While the regency act would give Prince Charles more power it would not make him king – this would only happen if the Queen chose to abdicate or upon her death.
Mr MacMarthanne concluded: “Were a regency to be invoked today this would mean the Queen remains monarch in name, with her constitutional duties, such as giving Royal Assent to bills, holding Privy Councils, and making appointments under advice, being dispensed by Prince Charles as the Prince Regent.
“The regency would last until revoked, or upon the death of the sovereign, at which point the regent, if heir, would become monarch.”
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