The monarch and parliament

Queen Elizabeth visits the Houses of Parliament around once a year, arriving in grand style to open a new session of Parliament. This article explains more about her role in a way that is accessible to students.

The monarch and parliament
You know who the current monarch is - it's Queen Elizabeth II. But do you know about what she has to do with the UK Parliament? Why doesn't she go near the House of Commons chamber, and why do some people say she's 'above politics'? 

The monarch used to run the country, but not anymore.

Image of the Royal Crown

In the past Britain's kings and queens were incredibly powerful. They controlled the decisions that affected everyone in the country. Today, most of the important decisions that affect us are made by MPs and Members of the House of Lords.

It's not the UK Parliament without the monarch

The UK Parliament has the power to pass laws for our country. It's formed of representatives from three parts: 650 MPs in the House of Commons; over 750 Members of the House of Lords; and the Queen, who represents the monarchy.

The monarch gives 'final approval' to all laws

The Queens signature

Queen Elizabeth signs her name to every Act of Parliament before it can become the law of the land. It would be very unusual for her to refuse. No monarch has refused Parliament's wishes for over 300 years.

The monarch opens Parliament every year

Queen Victoria state opening parade

MPs and Lords don't meet in Parliament every day of the year. There are some breaks. It falls to the monarch to open each new meeting – or 'session' – of Parliament. It's rather like Parliament's version of a school assembly, held for everyone, at the start of a new academic year. In pictures: State opening

The monarch appoints the Prime Minister after an election

Door of No.10 Downing Street

The Queen officially appoints the Prime Minister after a general election, although she doesn't choose the Prime Minister herself. By tradition, she appoints the leader of the political party that wins a majority of the seats in Parliament. In 2010 there was no majority, so she appointed the leader of the party with the most seats. 

When it comes to politics, the monarch is 'neutral'

The Queen doesn’t get involved in running the government. Nor does she publicly say what she thinks about political issues. This is why people sometimes say the monarch is 'above politics'.