We have already argued that the ultimate powers of sovereignty remain in the sole possession of the monarch. Indeed, it is the unique covenant between sovereign and people that stands as the bulwark supporting our constitution and rights.
The sovereign is the court of last resort, the only person who can stand finally between the people and renegade politicians. Indeed, we would go further. It is the sovereign’s sworn duty, as laid down in Magna Carta (see above).
The Coronation Oath is a contract for life between the sovereign and the nation. The original form of the Oath was stated earlier in this document, and still has the force of statute law. However, at the coronations of both The Queen and her father George VI, the words of the Oath were changed to meet the needs of the Statute of Westminster, 1931, which granted autonomy to the dominions. The words used at these coronations did not have the force of statute law behind them, having been merely agreed between the leaders of the Church of England and the government of the day in each case. Both oaths were illegal, as The Times newspaper pointed out on both occasions. In any case, Parliament has no power under the Bill of Rights to interfere with the Coronation Oath as first enacted during the reign of Charles II.
Despite the huge constitutional issues raised by these events of 1937 and 1953, the essential words in the Oath sworn by The Queen were:
“to govern the peoples of the United Kingdom according to their laws and customs. “
She also swore to preserve for the people
“all rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain to any of them.”
The Coronation Oath is not a contract between the sovereign and parliament. It is a contract between the sovereign and each individual subject. It cannot be broken by a vote in parliament. It can be broken only by the sovereign or by the individual.
Like all contracts, if one party to the contract believes the terms are at risk, the other party can be called to account.
As we have indicated already, today just as for nearly a thousand years, if an individual believes his freedoms, rights and liberties are at risk, the sovereign can be called upon to protect those rights as promised in the contract.
Likewise, the sovereign can call individuals to arms to protect the realm.
We know of two occasions in modern times when the covenant between sovereign and subjects first established in Magna Carta, and renewed in every Coronation Oath since, has been put to the test by one party to the contract or the other. Conveniently, the two examples come from opposite sides of the covenant.
Actions of this kind enhance the status and strength of the monarchy, and re-affirm to the nations subjects that their rights and freedoms are being preserved. They also demonstrate in a modern context that Magna Carta and the Declaration of Rights are alive and well.
The sovereign is the ultimate protector of the nation and guarantor of the rights of each individual, and those responsibilities are the sovereigns, and the sovereigns alone.
At least one constitutional commentator agrees with us:
"For parliament to develop or improve on a fundamental right is one thing. But to enact legislation which expressly removes an already existing fundamental right, and to have that enactment blindly upheld by a court, is quite another.
If there is one thread which runs through the whole turbulent history of British constitutional development, it is the belief that we (parliament and the courts) are the servants of fundamental constitutional rules which were there before us and will be there after we are gone.”
Allott, The Courts and Parliament, 1979.
The Ultimate Test
Despite all those rights, freedoms and protections, established over centuries, today our common laws, rights, freedoms, liberties and customs are being demolished with the speed and thoroughness of a team of statutory bulldozers.
Long ago, Magna Carta dealt with the problem of a sovereign acting above the law. Later, the Declaration of Rights confirmed the estates of the realm and their relationship to one another - a series of checks and balances. Today, that relationship has been seriously undermined. We now have a House of Commons acting above the law, plainly contemptuous of the (remaining) powers of The Queen and the House of Lords.
Such an overwhelming concentration of power in the hands of the executive, especially one with a huge parliamentary majority, means that we are currently faced with an extreme example of what Lord Hailsham famously called an elective dictatorship.
Writing in The Sunday Times, in July 1970, he said:
"It is the parliamentary majority that has the potential for tyranny. The thing that the Courts cannot protect you against is parliament - the traditional protector of our liberties. But parliament is constantly making mistakes and could in theory become the most oppressive instrument in the world"
Others had agreed with him in the past.
"A political system resting on professional party politicians is clearly fatal to all liberty and national well-being. It represents a total destruction of our historic Parliamentary constitution behind whose forms, institutions and ceremonies it has disguised itself whilst at the same time rendering them meaningless. The full meaning of Parliamentary supremacy is now lost to us by the constitutional corruptions which the professional politician has fomented by their appeals to an alien and fraudulent political ideology. By clearly identifying and correcting these corruptions we can recover the enduring qualities of strength and freedom of our parliamentary constitution for which generations of Englishmen have for centuries been ready to sacrifice their lives and their possessions"
Richard Crossman (1907-74) Introduction to Bagehot's "The English Constitution", 1867.
Ben Greene pointed out in his book The Restoration of the English Constitution that Bagehot was quite open about the deception by which the English people were deprived of their great constitutional heritage. The English monarchy had been reduced to an act of disguise for a de facto republic. Its role enabled the executive to effect change without people realising it. This ancient show, as the monarchy was called, covered the clandestine introduction of a new reality.
John Locke once more. He had no doubts. The people remain sovereign:
“there remains still in the people the supreme power to remove or alter the legislative when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them.”
Winston Churchill expressed
clear views about our relationship with
"We are with
Churchill was confident of the safeguards contained in Magna Carta. Writing in his History of The English-Speaking Peoples, he said:
“and when in subsequent ages the state, swollen with its own authority, has attempted to ride roughshod over the rights and liberties of the subject it is to this doctrine that appeal has again and again been made, and never, as yet, without success.”
The Magna Carta Society, and tens of thousands like us, believe the time has come - indeed, is overdue - to put the great principles and rights enshrined in Magna Carta and the Declaration of Rights to the test once again.
Eventually, the issue of the EU's right to rule over the UK must be tested in the highest court in the land and - given the speed and comprehensiveness of present EU legislation and its destructiveness - that test must be made as a matter of the highest priority.
Already faced with the most fundamental concerns for the structure and protection of this nations constitution it now appears that the battle over the EU has developed a second front - the dismantling of our parliamentary institutions and the most cavalier disregard for our constitution and rights.
Given the extracts above, there is good reason to believe that, under Magna Carta, 25 hereditary peers can convene themselves as a quorum, and sit as a House of Lords, despite the recent passage of a bill purporting to restrict its hereditary numbers.
We have reason to believe that such a quorum can be assembled.
Furthermore, under the terms of Magna Carta, that House has an obligation to hear petitions brought by free men, and take them to The Queen, who - equally - has an obligation to hear them.
That is the ultimate consequence of the unique contract first established with Magna Carta and renewed at each coronation.
To those in government and the judiciary who might try to argue that we no longer have the right of petition and appeal to The Queen, there are serious questions to answer:
When do they claim that right was taken away? By whom? And how? On whose authority? And by what right?
(We believe the
last monarch to receive and act on a petition was Queen
In any case, the sovereign cannot be absolved from her obligations, responsibilities and duties to her subjects, and certainly not on the mere advice of ministers. Otherwise the Coronation Oath would be meaningless.
Which is why we are preparing a petition to be submitted to the hereditary House of Lords for presentation to The Queen, based on the following terms:
“We the undersigned seek to draw attention to and seek redress from the imposition of foreign laws, directives, regulations and judicial decisions by and from the European Union and its institutions, to the detriment and prejudice of your sovereignty and to our rights and freedoms as defined in Magna Carta, the Declaration of Rights, and by the customs of your people, and which you, our sovereign, swore to uphold and preserve inviolate in your Coronation Oath of 1953.”
If Magna Carta stands, we have a right to enter such a petition.
If it does not, this kingdom stands in dire peril, the executive have some momentous questions to answer, and all free men of this kingdom should hear the call.
Whether Magna Carta stands or not, action is needed, and we intend to take it.