04 July 2007

The Royal Prerogative mid-5th Century-2007

In the light of recent criticism, we at As A Dodo are sad(1) at having to burden our readers with yet another badly-researched, ill-informed, mendacious and mean-spirited travesty, 'obituarising' (if we may be forgiven the somewhat ugly coinage) yet another easy target, The Royal Prerogative.

The Royal Prerogative was born in Britain in the middle of the 5th Century AD, following the collapse of the Roman Empire's last outposts in Albion. It succeeded the Imperial Prerogative, those powers which, according to scholars, allowed the Emperors of Rome to spread literacy, hygiene, roads, international trade and (like Gordon Brown) taxation and which, according to viewers of BBC2's "Rome", allowed all Romans to wander round with their kit off, have lots of sex and stab at least 20 people an episode.

The Royal Prerogative constituted those powers, privileges and immunities which were the appanage of British kingship. The earliest ruler known to have exercised such power was the legendary King Vortigern, who used The Prerogative chiefly to give control of parts of England to the Saxons, a tradition which Eurosceptics claim has been upheld in more recent times by successive UK Governments.

The centuries that followed Vortigern were to see a steady erosion of Prerogative power. The first to feel this was King Canute, whose attempt to bypass not merely Parliament but Mother Nature by issuing an Order in Council preventing the rising tide ended in humiliation and barnacles on his sceptre and orbs.

Though by the end of Elizabeth I's reign the House of Commons was to claim that while ‘the prerogatives of princes may easily and do daily grow … the privileges of the subject being once lost are not recovered but with much disquiet’, the next 80 years were to see The Prerogative decline even more rapidly. When Charles I attempted to use The Prerogative to rule and fund his administration without Parliament's approval (something which gave rise to the traditional office of Rouge Lord Levy Cash-Pursuivant) he swiftly had it cut off - along with his head - by Oliver Cromwell and his Parliamentary followers. Even after the restoration, Parliament was increasingly keen to flex its muscles against arbitrary rule by the monarch, leading to 1688's "Glorious" Revolution and the 1700 Act of Settlement which did to the The Prerogative pretty much what a red-hot poker did to Edward II.

Stripped of much of its power, The Prerogative was to struggle on, now vested in "The Crown", rather than the monarch, and used by Government to do everything from declaring wars, ordering the dissolution of Parliament (as opposed to the dissolution of MPs, many of whom can be pretty dissolute all by themselves) to choosing bishops, leaving the monarch his or herself to be contented with owning all the kingdom's swans and sturgeons.

Despite its age and relative feebleness, The Prerogative was still exercised on a regular basis. Even in the early 21st Century Prime Minister Blair was giving it a run round in the yard on a regular basis, usually in order to get it to declare war on other countries. With the passing of this last loyal master, however, it was clear to all that The Prerogative was not fit to survive in the modern world and it was put down at the behest of its new owner, Gordon Brown.

The Royal Prerogative will be buried this weekend. Tony Blair will read from the Book of Britney "Everybody's talking all this stuff about me, why don't they just let me live? I don't need permission, make my own decisions, that's my prerogative".

(1) By which we mean, "too gorged on our own self-satisfaction to give a monkey's".


Anonymous said...

Good stuff as ever.
Do not show your hurt or anger or whatever. I agree with the comment about sour grapes on the part of chef. It sounds like you pinched his brilliant idea. If true I for one am glad because he would not have done it half so well.

The As A Dodo Team said...

Honestly, no anger/hurt on our part - it's very hard to annoy an extinct bird. Besides which, we do our very best to be badly-researched, mendacious, mean-spirited &c &c and are enormously grateful that someone has noticed at last.

Anonymous said...

Wonder when the next is to appear or is the delay caused by you making more exhaustive researches?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Great stuff! Love the footnote. Keep 'em coming, Dodo!