Why King Charles and the Royal Family Won’t Vote in the U.K. Election

As the United Kingdom heads to the polls on July 4, one prominent group will not be casting ballots: the British royal family.

Kate Middleton, Prince William, King Charles and Queen Camilla in July 2023. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, LESLEY MARTIN - POOL/GETTY)
Kate Middleton, Prince William, King Charles and Queen Camilla in July 2023. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, LESLEY MARTIN – POOL/GETTY)

Despite their high-profile role in the nation, the royals maintain a tradition of political neutrality that keeps them from participating in elections.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the general election on May 22, setting the stage for voters to choose all 650 members of the House of Commons.

The winning party will form the next government, with its leader becoming the prime minister. Sunak, who has been in office since October 2022, will remain if the Conservatives win. If the Labour Party prevails, Keir Starmer will step into the role.

King Charles, who plays a ceremonial role in appointing new prime ministers, and other active members of the royal family, such as Queen Camilla, Prince William, and Kate Middleton, will not vote in the election.

This practice aligns with the royal family’s commitment to staying politically neutral. The monarchy’s impartiality is crucial for their role, which involves working with whichever party is in power and engaging with foreign leaders regardless of political affiliations.

The decision for royals to abstain from voting is not mandated by law but is a long-standing tradition. Robert Blackburn, a professor of constitutional law at King’s College London, explained that while it is legal for the King and working royals to vote, doing so would cause media speculation and compromise their required impartiality.

King Charles and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attend the World Climate Action Summit during COP28 on December 1, 2023. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, CHRIS JACKSON/GETTY IMAGES)
King Charles and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attend the World Climate Action Summit during COP28 on December 1, 2023. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, CHRIS JACKSON/GETTY IMAGES)

“The King and active members of the royal family can legally cast a vote at general elections on the same basis as other eligible citizens, but in practice do not do so for obvious reasons,” Blackburn told Time.

While working royals abstain, those without formal roles can vote, though it is unclear how many choose to do so. This contrasts with practices in other monarchies.

For instance, the children of Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, including Crown Princess Elisabeth, voted in the country’s June election, while the monarch and queen consort abstained.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, represent a unique case. After stepping back from their roles as working royals and moving to California, Meghan voted in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, becoming the first modern British royal to do so.

She has publicly emphasized the importance of voting, including during the “The 19th Represents” virtual summit in August 2020, where she discussed the challenges and significance of exercising voting rights.

Prince Harry, as a U.K. citizen, has never been able to vote due to his royal status. However, he joined Meghan in encouraging voter participation during a televised segment for TIME magazine‘s list of the world’s most influential people in September 2020.

The royal family at Trooping the Colour 2024. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP VIA GETTY)
The royal family at Trooping the Colour 2024. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP VIA GETTY)

“As a U.K. citizen, Prince Harry noted that he couldn’t vote in the upcoming election, adding, ‘Many of you may not know that I haven’t been able to vote in the U.K. my entire life.'”

The couple’s involvement in voting advocacy has drawn attention to the differing expectations for working royals versus those who have stepped back from formal duties.

Buckingham Palace clarified that Prince Harry’s comments are made in a personal capacity, not as a representative of the royal family.

As the election approaches, the royal family’s role remains largely ceremonial. If Starmer becomes the new prime minister, he will be the third person to hold the position since King Charles ascended to the throne less than two years ago.

Queen Elizabeth’s final royal duty was appointing Liz Truss as prime minister in September 2022, just days before her passing. Truss’s tenure was brief, making her the shortest-serving prime minister in U.K. history.

Sunak succeeded her following a selection by the Conservative Party and was formally welcomed by King Charles in October 2022.

King Charles continues the tradition of a weekly audience with the prime minister, where they discuss government matters privately.

The royal family’s website notes that while the King remains politically neutral, he is able to “advise and warn” his ministers, including the prime minister, when necessary.

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