Limitations of prerogative

1.6Many changes have been effected at different times in the legal succession to the Crown (a notable example are those that occurred at the Revolution of 1688–89). The power of Parliament over the Crown is distinctly affirmed by the statute law and recognised as an important principle of the constitution.

The Act of Settlement (1700–01) affirms ‘that the laws of England are the birthright of the people thereof; and all the Kings and Queens1 who shall ascend the throne of this realm ought to administer the government of the same according to the said laws; and all their officers and ministers ought to serve them respectively according to the same’. The Succession to the Crown Act 1707 declares it high treason for anyone to maintain and affirm, by writing, printing, or preaching, ‘that the Kings or Queens of this realm, by and with the authority of Parliament, are not able to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to limit and bind the Crown, and the descent, limitation, inheritance, and government thereof’. The relationship between the Crown and Parliament had earlier been defined in the Bill of Rights, which declared, inter alia, that ‘the pretended power of suspending or dispensing with laws, or the execution of laws, without consent of Parliament, is illegal’, and that ‘levying money for or to the use of the Crown, by pretence of prerogative, without grant of Parliament for longer time or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal’.2


  1. 1. For a statutory confirmation of the ancient right of females to inherit the Crown, see 1 Mar Sess 2, c 1; Queen Regent's Prerogative Act 1554 (1 Mar Sess 3, c 1); 1 Eliz, c 3; the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 ended the system of male preference primogeniture. For the form in which the accession of a Sovereign is recognised, see CJ (1837) 488; ibid (1901) 2; ibid (1910) 148; ibid (1935–36) 49; ibid (1936–37) 58; ibid (1951–52) 88.
  2. 2. 1688, c 2, arts 1 and 4.