Charles as prince regent? Possibility raises a puzzle for Canada
Published Sunday, May 19, 2013 12:04PM EDT
As Canadians prepare to celebrate Victoria Day, the official date of birthday honours for the reigning monarch, there is increasing speculation that Queen Elizabeth is about to make a decision that could have constitutional implications for Canada.
When Queen Elizabeth II opened the British parliament last week, her son, Prince Charles, was in attendance for the first time in 17 years, along with his wife Camilla.
Some royal watchers interpret the couple’s presence as a signal that the 87-year-old monarch might be preparing to offload some of her duties by elevating Charles to a prince regent.
Britain’s Regency Acts dictate what happens when a monarch becomes physically or mentally incapable of fulfilling his or her duties, royal commentator Rafe Heydel-Mankoo told CTV’s Question Period.
If Charles were to become prince regent it would pose a conundrum for Canada, which does not have regency acts of its own, Heydel-Mankoo said.
Canadian constitutional experts would need to decide whether a prince regent can appoint the next governor general.
But Heydel-Mankoo suggested such a scenario is highly unlikely.
“It’s a legal impossibility to become prince regent whilst her majesty remains in robust health, physically and mentally,” Heydel-Mankoo said.
He added that while there’s no possibility of the prince becoming a regent in the foreseeable future, Charles is likely to take on more royal duties over the next few years.
The queen announced earlier this month that she would send Charles to the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Sri Lanka in November, marking the first time she has skipped the gathering since 1971.
Buckingham Palace said it was reviewing the queen’s amount of long-haul travel.
As a counsellor of state, Prince Charles already fulfills royal duties at home when the Queen is abroad.
Queen Elizabeth was briefly hospitalized for a stomach illness earlier this year, and she skipped the Commonwealth Day Observance service at Westminster Abbey on March 11.
According to the Regency Act of 1937, in order to be declared unfit to rule, at least three of the following people -- the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Chief Justice of England, the Master of the Rolls and the spouse of the sovereign -- would have to agree in writing, after seeing medical evidence, that the monarch is physically or mentally incapacitated.