Counsellor of State

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For Counsellor of State in France, see Conseiller d'État.

In the United Kingdom, Counsellors of State are senior members of the British royal family to whom the monarch, as of 2014 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; so 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 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 Counsellors of State[edit]

As of 2013 the Counsellors of State were:

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.

See also[edit]


  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.