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The manner in which the sovereign powers are delegated, is as follows :—The secretary of state for foreign affairs and the ambassadors conduct the intercourse of the nation with foreign states; the army is confided to the secretary at war and the commander-in-chief; the navy to the board of admiralty; the administration of justice to the judges ; the execution of the law to the secretary of state for the home department; the prosecution of public offenders to the law officers of the Crown ; the care of minors, idiots, lunatics, &c. to the lord chancellor, together with much of the ecclesiastical patronage ; the other duties and prerogatives are exercised by the colonial secretary, the boards of treasury, of controul, of public works, One subject upon which the sovereign is generally supposed to act without particular advisers is, in judging who shall be received at court, and what are the circumstances which justify exclusion from the royal presence.
There are many prerogatives which, owing to a changed condition of society, have fallen into desuetude, but the foregoing includes most of those exercised since the Revolution. Letters for the monarch are usually addressed “ To the King's Most Excellent Majesty ;" they commence with “Sire,” and usually conclude with “I am, with great veneration, Sire, your Majesty's most faithful Subject and dutiful Servant.”
“ To him the church, the realm, their powers consign, Through him the rays of regal bounty shine.”
Johnson, Vanity of Human Wishes. A Regent is a personage who is temporarily invested with the supreme authority, and acts “in the name and on the behalf” of the monarch. Legal authorities maintain, that the king is never a minor or under age, and that his royal assent to acts of parliament, his royal grants, warrants, and proclamations, are fully valid, though he has not attained his majority. They also argue that the office of regent is unknown to the common law of the country, (that is to say, is based upon no practice or ancient custom,) because the methods of his appointment have been so various, and the extent and duration of his power so uncertain. In modern times, as is well known, regents have always been appointed by the parliament, under the authority of which the limits and continuance of the regent's power are clearly and strictly defined, for each individual instance. In appointments of the latter class, our interest is more nearly concerned than in the irregular forms of nomination, to which turbu. lent periods, or the ambition of individuals, have occasionally given birth. Thus the Earl of Pembroke, by his own authority, assumed the regency when Henry III. was only nine years of age; the parliament named a guardian and council of regency to Edward III. then fifteen ; the Duke of Lancaster assumed the regency when Richard II. succeeded at eleven years of age, though the parliament subsequently appointed a council to assist him; Henry VI., when nine months old, was put under the superintendence of a regent by his father's will, but the parliament changed this disposition for a protector and a council, with a defined authority; the Duke of Gloucester was declared protector by the privy council when Edward V. was thirteen ; Edward VI. was under the government of the sixteen executors of Henry VIII., and these elected the Earl of Hertford protector ; and in many similar cases where minors became heirs apparent or presumptive to the throne, regents were appointed by parliament in anticipation of the event.
But the important characteristic of all recent appointments of such a functionary, resides in the clear manner in which the extent and duration of the regent's power was defined by the parliament. These restrictions have not been imposed in the pursuance of any general rule, but have differed with the individual regents in accordance with the influence of surrounding circumstances, or the feelings which subsisted between the regent-elect and the parliament for the time being. Thus the mental derangement of George III. in 1789 led to the appointment of the Prince of Wales (subsequently George IV.) as regent. But the British parliament granted powers of a much more restricted extent than the Irish parliament, which offered the regency with all the prerogatives of a reigning monarch. Had the king's illness then continued, the prince would have held the government in the two kingdoms according to a different tenure; but the restoration which George the Third's health underwent, suspended this question, and its subsequent revival was prevented by the union of Great Britain with Ireland.
In the year 1811 the Prince of Wales assumed the regency under the authority of parliament, in consequence of the recurrence of that malady which had before temporarily affected his royal father. By a statute which was passed immediately afterwards, the supreme power was confirmed to the prince (afterwards George IV.) under certain" limitations, exceptions, regulations, and restrictions.” Thus no act of the regent was to be valid unless expressly done “in the name and on the behalf of” his father, and subject to the limitations of this statute. He was not empowered to create peerages, to summon heirs-apparent, or to determine the abeyance of any peerage until after the lst of February, 1812; he was restricted till the same period from conferring any office in reversion, or for any longer term than during his Majesty's pleasure, with the exception, of course, of all such offices as must, according to law, be granted for life or during good behaviour. He was declared incompetent to confer the royal assent on an act to repeal or alter in any respect the order of succession to the throne, or the government of the Church. He was restricted from marrying a Roman Catholic, or residing out of the kingdom. The care of the king's person, and the appointment of a part of the royal household, was vested in the queen, and a council of eight persons was appointed to assist her majesty. This council was empowered to examine the physicians and others on oath, respecting the health of the king, and were directed to publish the result every three months; so that whenever the king appeared to be sufficiently recovered to reassume the supreme authority, this council was directed to notify the fact to the privy council, and from that time forward the influence of the Regency Act was totally to cease ; but the acts, orders, and appointments previously made by the regent, were to remain in full force unless specially countermanded by the king. The sum of £60,000 was directed to be anpually issued to the keeper of his majesty's privy porse during the king's illness, and of this he was authorized to pay £15,461 annually to the same persons, and in the same manner as he did during the king's health; as well as £16,860 annually, according to the queen's order; the remainder to be invested in the public securities in trust for the king, and the net revenues of the duchy of Lancaster were to be secured in the same manner.
Clothed with the foregoing powers, and restricted by the above-mentioned limitations, George IV. was the last person who actually enjoyed the authority of a regent in these realms; and although circumstances have since arisen under which regents were appointed, the occasions have all been in anticipation of the accession of a minor to the Crown, and fortuDately not in consequence of the illness of any monarch at the time on the throne. Thus, in the Ist Fear
of William the Fourth's reign, on the 23rd of December, 1830, a Regency bill was passed, providing for the administration of the government, should the Crown descend to the princess Victoria while under eighteen years of age ; but, as is well known, king William did not die till a month after