Counsellor of State

The counsellors of state are senior members of the British royal family to whom the monarch (Elizabeth II since 1952), can delegate and revoke royal functions (except the grant of rank, title or dignity of the peerage), through letters patent under the Great Seal of the Realm, to prevent delay or difficulty in the dispatch of public business in the case of their illness (except total incapacity), or intended or actual absence from the United Kingdom.[1]

Such royal functions are to be exercised jointly by the counsellors of state or by such number of them as is specified in the letters patent under the Great Seal and subject to any other conditions within.[2]

Any two counsellors of state may preside over Privy Council meetings, sign state documents, or receive the credentials of new ambassadors to the Court of St James's.[3]


The first counsellors of state were created in 1911 by an Order in Council of George V, and this process was repeated on each occasion of the King's absence or incapacity.[citation needed]

The Regency Act 1937 established in law those individuals who could serve as counsellors of state: the counsellors of state are the monarch's spouse and the first four people in the line of succession who meet the qualifications.[4] These qualifications are the same as those for a regent, including that councillors of state must be at least 21 years old (except the first in line, who need only be 18 years old), they must be domiciled in the United Kingdom, and they must be a British subject.[5]

Since the passage of the Regency Act 1937, the only persons to have been counsellors of state while not a queen consort, prince, or princess were George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood; Alastair Windsor, 2nd Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (although Windsor had been a prince between 1914 and 1917 and never served in practice during his short tenure); and Maud Carnegie, Countess of Southesk (who was entitled to, but did not use the style of princess).[citation needed] Prior to that, the lord chancellor, the lord president of the council, the prime minister, and the archbishop of Canterbury had been appointed to the position by George V.[citation needed]

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother lost her eligibility to be a counsellor of state in 1952 upon the death of her husband, King George VI. Section 3 of the Regency Act 1953, however, restored her position. The provision was specific to her, rather than applying to dowager consorts generally, and became moot upon her death in 2002.

List of current counsellors of state

As of April 2021, the counsellors of state are:[3][6]

Image Name Since Relation Succession order Change
Charles, Prince of Wales
(b. 1948)
14 November 1966 Son
First Replaced Prince Richard of Gloucester upon reaching the age of 18
Prince William
(Duke of Cambridge since 2011)
(b. 1982)
21 June 2003 Grandson Second Replaced Anne, Princess Royal upon reaching the age of 21
Prince Harry
(Duke of Sussex since 2018)
(b. 1984)
15 September 2005 Grandson Sixth Replaced Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex upon reaching the age of 21
Prince Andrew
(Duke of York since 1986)
(b. 1960)
19 February 1981 Son Ninth Replaced Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester upon reaching the age of 21

Of these four, only Prince Charles and Prince William continue to perform royal duties. Prince Harry no longer carries out royal duties, and Prince Andrew ceased performing royal duties in November 2019 due to his association with the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.

Prince Harry no longer resides in the UK, but this does not necessarily affect his domicile. If he was deemed to no longer legally be domiciled in the UK he would not be eligible to be appointed, and the next eligible person in line would become eligible.[7][failed verification]

List of former counsellors of state

The following is a list of all the people who have been, but no longer are, a counsellor of state since the passage of the Regency Act 1937, in chronological order:

George VI

Image Name Period Relation Change
Queen Elizabeth
19 March 1937 – 6 February 1952 Spouse Passage of the Regency Act 1937
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
19 March 1937 – 6 February 1952 Brother
Prince George, Duke of Kent
19 March 1937 – 25 August 1942 Brother
Mary, Princess Royal
19 March 1937 – 6 February 1952 Sister
Princess Arthur of Connaught, Duchess of Fife
19 March 1937 – 21 April 1944 Cousin
Alastair Windsor, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn
Never served
25 August 1942 – 26 April 1943 First cousin
once removed
Replaced Prince George, Duke of Kent upon his death
Maud Carnegie, Countess of Southesk
26 April 1943 – 7 February 1944 Cousin Replaced Alastair Windsor, Duke of Connaught upon his death
George Lascelles, Earl of Harewood
(Viscount Lascelles until 1947)
7 February 1944 – 21 August 1951 Nephew Replaced Maud Carnegie, Countess of Southesk upon reaching the age of 21
Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh
(b. 1926)
21 April 1944 – 6 February 1952 Daughter Replaced Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife upon reaching the age of 18
Princess Margaret
21 August 1951 – 6 February 1952 Daughter Replaced George Lascelles, Earl of Harewood upon reaching the age of 21

Elizabeth II

Image Name Period Relation Change
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
6 February 1952 – 9 April 2021 Spouse Accession to the throne of Elizabeth II
Princess Margaret
(Countess of Snowdon from 1961)
6 February 1952 – 10 March 1985 Sister
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
6 February 1952 – 10 June 1974 Uncle
Mary, Princess Royal
6 February 1952 – 25 December 1957 Aunt
George Lascelles, Earl of Harewood
6 February 1952 – 9 October 1956 Cousin
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
19 November 1953 – 30 March 2002[8] Mother Passage of the Regency Act 1953
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
(b. 1935)
9 October 1956 – 26 August 1965 Cousin Replaced George Lascelles, Earl of Harewood upon reaching the age of 21
Princess Alexandra of Kent
(b. 1936)
25 December 1957 – 18 December 1962 Cousin Replaced Mary, Princess Royal upon reaching the age of 21
Prince William of Gloucester
18 December 1962 – 15 August 1971 Cousin Replaced Princess Alexandra of Kent upon reaching the age of 21
Prince Richard of Gloucester
(b. 1944)
26 August 1965 – 14 November 1966 Cousin Replaced Prince Edward, Duke of Kent upon reaching the age of 21
Princess Anne
(Princess Royal since 1987)
(b. 1950)
15 August 1971 – 21 June 2003 Daughter Replaced Prince William of Gloucester upon reaching the age of 21
Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester
(b. 1944)
10 June 1974 – 19 February 1981 Cousin Replaced Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester upon his death
Prince Edward
(Earl of Wessex since 1999)
(b. 1964)
10 March 1985 – 15 September 2005 Son Replaced Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon upon reaching the age of 21


  1. Regency Act 1937 section 6(1).
  2. Regency Act 1937 section 6.
  3. "Counsellors of State". Retrieved 31 January 2019. Counsellors of State are appointed from among the following: The Duke of Edinburgh and the four adults next in succession (provided they have reached the age of 21). The current Counsellors of State are currently The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge, The Duke of Sussex and The Duke of York.
  4. Regency Act 1936 secton 6(2).
  5. Regency Act 1937 section 6(2); Regency Act 1953 section 2; Regency Act 1937 section 3(2).
  6. "Prince Philip has died aged 99, Buckingham Palace announces". BBC News. 9 April 2021. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  7. Craig Prescott (January 21, 2020). "Harry and Meghan, Regency, Counsellors of State and a "Slimmed Down" Royal Family". UK Constitutional Law Association.
  8. Queen Elizabeth lost her position as counsellor of state when she was widowed. However, the Regency Act 1953 added her as a counsellor of state.