Debate over Counsellors of State amid Queen Covid scare

Counsellors of State are appointed from among the monarch’s consort and the four adults over the age of 21 next in the succession line.

10 February 2022

The Queen’s Covid scare has reignited debate over the current Counsellors of State.

In the event the Queen could not undertake her official duties as sovereign on a temporary basis due to illness, two or more Counsellors of State are appointed by Letters Patent to act in her place.

Counsellors of State are appointed from among the following: the monarch’s consort (which was the late Duke of Edinburgh) and the four adults over the age of 21 next in succession.

These are currently the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of York.

With Charles contracting Covid, and the Duke of Cambridge abroad in Dubai, if both the Queen and Charles were too unwell to carry out duties, the role would fall to Andrew and Harry.

Andrew has stepped back permanently from royal life while he fights a civil sexual assault case, while Harry is in the US having also quit as a senior working royal.

Charles is understood not to have serious symptoms after testing positive on Thursday.

Former BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt tweeted: “With Prince Charles isolating and Prince William abroad, is Prince Andrew limbering up in case he needs to be a Counsellor of State – or can Prince Harry do it, virtually?”

Second in line William is however only away on a whirlwind tour and is set to return from the UAE on Friday.

But, in the event Counsellors of State were needed, he would only be one of the two required.

Duke of Edinburgh funeral
The Duke of Sussex and the Duke of York at the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

Concern for the Queen’s health has mounted after she was in direct contact with her son and heir Charles on Tuesday.

The 95-year-old is not displaying any symptoms, but Buckingham Palace refused to confirm whether she had tested positive or negative for Covid, citing medical privacy.

The Queen is empowered to appoint Counsellors under the Regency Acts 1937-53.

There have been suggestions the Duchess of Cornwall could become a Counsellor of State, but legislation would be required for this to happen as she is not in the line of succession.

She will automatically become one, as Queen Consort, when Charles becomes King, as the wife of a sovereign.

Andrew and Harry remain in the line of succession, but the fact that Harry is out of the UK living in California could potentially disqualify him from a Counsellor of State role, although he could travel back to London if ever required.

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