There are still situations in which the monarch may chose to exercise his or her Royal Prerogative independently from the elected politicians. Such situations are extremely rare, and only occur in emergencies.
Not all constitutional monarchs have royal prerogative that can be exercised independently however. For example, the King of Sweden and the Emperor of Japan have specific government duties that cannot be exercised with any degree of individual restraint, no matter what the circumstance.
Though some republican heads of state possess similar powers they are not coterminous, containing a number of fundamental differences, not the least of which being that they do not operate in common law systems in which common law courts can impose limits on their exercise.
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The Royal Prerogative in the United Kingdom
In the Kingdom of England (up to 1707), the Kingdom of Great Britain (1707-1800) and the United Kingdom (since 1801), the Royal Prerogative historically was one of the central features of the realm's governance. Some key areas of British system of government are still carried out by means of the Royal Prerogative. However the usage of the Royal Prerogative has been diminishing.
Contrary to widespread belief, the Royal Prerogative is not unlimited. In the Case of Proclamations (1611) during the reign of King James I/VI, English common law courts judges emphatically asserted that they possessed the right to determine the limits of the Royal Prerogative. Since the Glorious Revolution (1688), which brought co-monarchs Queen Mary II and King William III to power, this judicial interpretation has not been challenged by the Crown.
Among the powers theoretically possessed by the monarch in the United Kingdom under the Royal Prerogative are:
Although many powers are included in the royal prerogative, some powers are notable for their absence. In particular, the British monarch does not have the power to deprieve an individual of their life, liberty, or property as these rights are said to derive from the Fundamental Laws of England. As a consequence, the monarch does not have the power to tax without the consent of Parliament and this has significantly limited the power of the monarchy. The unsuccessful efforts of Charles I of England to raise money to finance the royal administration through royal prerogative sources not subject to parliamentary approval (such the collection of tolls on ships) was one of the major causes of the English Civil War.
Most powers execised by the British government in international and foreign affairs come from the Royal Prerogative. These include
Among the odder royal prerogatives are:
Prior to British involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Blair in a major break with precedent sought parliamentary approval for British participation in the war. However Parliament's decision was in constitutional terms advisory as the actual decision would be taken by the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. Blair indicated that should parliament not approve, he would not formally advise Queen Elizabeth II to exercise the Royal Prerogative and declare war. Given that Blair had an overwhelming Labour majority in the British House of Commons and had the support of the opposition Conservative Party, there was little likelihood that parliament would vote down the motion recommending participation in the war. It remains to be seen whether a future government with a small majority or in a minority in the House of Commons will seek parliamentary approval prior to the exercise of the Royal Prerogative.
Former left wing Labour MP Tony Benn campaigned for the abolition of the Royal Prerogative in the United Kingdom in the 1990s, arguing that all governmental powers in effect exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister and cabinet should be subject to parliamentary scrutiny and require parliamentary approval. His attempts were unsuccessful, with later governments arguing that such is the breath of topics covered by the Royal Prerogative that requiring parliamentary approval in each instance where the prerogative is currently used would overwhelm parliamentary time and slow the enactment of legislation.
In Commonwealth Realms, the Royal Prerogative is very similar in nature to the prerogative in England, but is exercised by the Monarch's representative, the Governor General.