Historically, royalty carries with it inherent aspects of sovereignty, power, and might. To wear the crown is to have the ability to yell, “Off with their heads!” and have the command carried out. For the most part, the sheer power of royalty has given way to more of a celebrity status in modern government.
In the video clip below from The Naked Gun 21⁄2: The Smell of Fear, Lt. Frank Drebin expressed the opinion of many, saying, “No matter how silly the idea of having a queen might be to us, as Americans, we must be gracious and considerate hosts.”
One of the things most valued in the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom is tradition. While the absolute power of the British crown has greatly diminished, there are certain traditional rights and privileges that remain. They may seem silly, according to modern notions, but they remain as a reminder of the rich history and tradition of a kingdom that dates back for well over 1,000 years. Consider some of the privileges enjoyed by the current monarch, Elizabeth II.
The Right to Steal Children
Possibly the creepiest right vested in the Crown is the right to steal children. The law of the land charges the monarch with the responsibility of being the guardian of all children and infants with certain mental disorders. Although the power is still valid, it has not been exercised in modern times. Apparently the queen has enough responsibilities keeping her own children and grandchildren under control and can’t be bothered with an additional mouth to feed.
Ownership of Sturgeon, Whales, Dolphins, and Swans
As already noted in this article, the Crown owns the rights to all of the sturgeon and whales in British waters. This right also extends to ownership of all dolphins and unmarked mute swans in open water. The sovereign is also the only person who is permitted to eat a swan. The Royal Family’s official website notes, “The Queen retains the right to claim ownership of any unmarked mute swan swimming in open waters, but this right is mainly exercised on certain stretches of the River Thames.”
Right to Gifts of Flags, Pastries, Fish, and Snowballs
Over the years, the crown has collected the right to receive quite a few tributes that take on some interesting forms, ranging from cool to quaint to bizarre.
- The Duke of Wellington is required to present a French Tricolour flag before noon on the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, June 19.
- The Duke of Marlborough must offer up a small satin flag with a Fleur de Lys on August 13, the anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim.
- The town of Great Yarmouth must furnish 100 herrings baked in 24 pasties to its sheriff, who gives them to the Lord of the Manor. The Lord of the Manor, in turn, delivers them to the Sovereign. Hopefully, they have not grown cold and have not spoiled during all this handling.
- The City of Gloucester pays rent for the land owned by the Crown in the form of an enormous eel pie. The law is strangely silent on the question of whether a bad pie would be treated the same as a bad check.
- The owner of Fowlis must deliver — when required — a snowball in mid-summer. Read more about this custom here.
- The owner of Sauchlemuir Castle must set out three glasses of port on New Year’s Eve for the grandmother of James IV of Scotland. This requirement is still binding, even though James IV has been dead for over 500 years.
- The Marquis of Ailesbury owns Savernake Forest and is required to produce a blast on a hunting horn should the Sovereign pass through the Forest. This last happened in 1943.
- The owner of Dunlambert Castle in Northern Ireland is also required to sound a blast on an old bugle when the Sovereign passes by.
- If the Sovereign passes near Kidwelly Castle in Wales, the tenant has to provide a bodyguard in full armor. Inasmuch as the castle is a ruin, the Queen should not count on this royal right as the sole manner of her personal safety while in the vicinity.
- The Duke of Atholl must give a rose to the Sovereign whenever the Sovereign stops by for a visit. The last time this happened was during the reign of Queen Victoria.
- The town of Hungerford receives fishing and grazing rights from the Sovereign. The cost of this is a red rose.
Britannia Rules the Waves and the Monarch Can Take the Boats
Queen Elizabeth comes from a family that is steeped in navy tradition. If she so fancies, she has the right to commandeer any boat and take it for a ride. She is more likely to seize a boat for a national emergency, however.
This right was exercised in 1982 when the Queen took control of the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth 2 and used it as a troop transport during the war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.