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Since Kate and William announced they were expecting a baby, curious well-wishers have been speculating about and betting on the birth day, and gender and name of the next royal baby. The anticipation ended last week when Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince William announced the birth of their son at St. Mary’s Hospital in London on July 22. On July 23, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge introduced their son to journalists, paparazzi, and well wishers who had been camped outside hoping for a glimpse of the yet unnamed baby. On Wednesday, his name was revealed—George Alexander Louis (pronounced Louie). His official title is His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge. Commemorate Prince George’s birth by discovering more about the British Monarch, and the United Kingdom’s political system.
The Future King
Prince George is third in line for the crown, behind his grandfather and father. Someday, it is expected he will serve as King George VII. View the royal family tree and figure out the pattern to who is where in the line to become King (or Queen.) Learn more about a family member by clicking on their photograph. Learn more about Prince George’s direct ancestors, the House of Windsor.
The history of the British Monarchy begins over a thousand years ago. Until 1603, Scotland and England had separate monarchs. When Queen Elizabeth 1, the Virgin Queen, died in 1603, King James VI of Scotland became King James 1 of England. Since then, one monarch has ruled the United Kingdom. Explore a timeline of the monarchy in the United Kingdom. Click ‘start the timeline’ and then select ‘United Kingdom Monarchs’ and ‘Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and the Windsors’ from the drop down menus.
Prince George likely will not be crowned King for many years but that does not stop us from wondering—what does the King do? To answer this, turn to his great grandmother, the current Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Visit the official website of the British Monarchy and read, The Role of the Monarchy. Much of the Queen’s time is spent in meetings and social engagements. Read about the Queen’s working day—morning, afternoon, and evening. The British Monarch has strong ties to the Church of England and serves as Head of the Armed Forces. She also bestows honors and titles upon deserving subjects. One of the Queen’s most important ceremonial responsibilities is to open Parliament each political season. Watch the short PBS video, Head of State, for an explanation of that ceremony. Then, read more about the Monarch and Parliament.
A Constitutional Monarchy
Queen Elizabeth II cannot do whatever she pleases. She is not an absolute monarch. Instead, the British Monarch is part of a constitutional monarchy. In a constitutional monarchy, the Monarch is Head-of-State within the framework of a constitution. It is not a politically powerful position. It is a ceremonial position that provides unity and continuity.
In the United Kingdom, Parliament serves as the legislative branch of government. For a comprehensive overview, watch Parliament and Government: an overview. BBC Bitesize breaks the UK Parliament down. Read about how a government is elected. Like the legislative branch of government in the United States, the UK Parliament holds government leaders accountable and debates bills. Members of the House of Lords are not elected, neither is the Prime Minister. M.P.s or Members of Parliament, are elected and work for their constituents. One more BBC resource provides a guide to Parliament. Read about how the government is formed. Read about the Commons and the Lords. The government and both sections of Parliament must work together to create laws. How does this process compare to how federal laws are created where you live?
For a final view of how the government of the United Kingdom works, visit its official site. Here you can learn more about the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his deputy and each of their responsibilities. Meet each of the Cabinet ministers. Which of these positions exists in your federal government? Scroll down to read How government is run. How do these functions and frameworks compare to your federal government?