Privy to the Details

Meetings of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council are not usually a big event. Although the committees (particularly the Cabinet and the Supreme Court) are very busy institutions, the plenaries generally take place once per month, minimally attended (the quorum is four) and enacting mere formalities.

A major exception to the norm is upon the demise of the crown. Then an Accession Council is swiftly convened to greet the new monarch. This is typically the only occasion on which the entire council meets.

Nowadays, even that is set to change. It was reported in Private Eye some time ago that places at the next accession will have to be rationed, on account of the council having grown too large over the course of the present reign. Certain office-holders will be invited automatically, but everyone else will have to enter a ballot.

Recently there has been a freedom of information request which revealed which offices would grant automatic invitation. As it turned out, the list was still quite long. I have endeavoured to break it down by category for ease of understanding.

The Firm

  • Members of the Royal Family who are Privy Counsellors
  • The Lord Great Chamberlain
  • The Earl Marshal
  • The Garter Principal King of Arms
  • The Lord Lyon King of Arms
  • Members of the Royal Household who are Privy Counsellors
  • Certain senior members of the Royal Household who are not Privy Counsellors

Political figures

  • The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
  • The Prime Minister
  • The Lord President of the Council
  • The Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
  • The Speaker of the House of Commons
  • The Lord Speaker
  • Serving Cabinet ministers (and ministers who attend Cabinet)
  • The Leader of the Opposition
  • Members of the Shadow Cabinet who are Privy Counsellors
  • Westminster Leaders of political parties represented in the House of Commons
  • The First Minister of Scotland
  • The First Minister of Wales
  • The First Minister of Northern Ireland
  • The Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland
  • The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament
  • The Presiding Officer of the Welsh Parliament
  • The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly
  • Deputy Speakers (of where?)
  • Former Prime Ministers
  • Former Lord Presidents of the Council
  • Former leaders of political parties who are Privy Counsellors

Religious figures

  • The Archbishop of Canterbury
  • The Archbishop of York
  • The Bishop of London
  • Former Archbishops of Canterbury and York
  • Former Bishops of London

Judiciary

  • The Judicial Committee
  • The Lord Chief Justice of England & Wales
  • The Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland
  • The Lord President of the Court of Session
  • The Lord Advocate
  • The Master of the Rolls
  • The President of the Queen’s Bench Division
  • The President of the Family Division
  • The Chancellor of the High Court of England & Wales
  • Lord and Lady Justices of Appeal

Diplomats and civil servants

  • The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations
  • High Commissioners of the Commonwealth Realms
  • The Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps
  • The Cabinet Secretary
  • The Permanent Secretary of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

The City of London

  • The Lord Mayor
  • The Sheriffs
  • The Recorder

Notably the reply did not specify how many places were available by ballot.

UPDATE (8th September)

Elizabeth II died earlier today. The council website currently advises attendees to await for an email giving further instructions.

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