The Princess Royal, 72, and the Earl of Wessex, 58, officially became Counsellors of State on Wednesday. Now, the royals can carry out constitutional duties for their elder brother King Charles III if he is abroad or unwell.
The Counsellors of State Bill received royal assent on Tuesday and became law the day after. Anne and Edward are now Counsellors of State for Charles for life, according to the legislation.
Anne and Edward are now officially in a privileged position after the bill debuted in British Parliament in November. The legislation was “fast-tracked” through both houses to avoid the potential for “an awkward constitutional problem” involving Prince Andrew and Prince Harry, the BBC reported.
The Counsellor of State position typically belongs to the sovereign’s spouse, followed by the first four people in the line of succession over the age of 21. Currently, those are Queen Camilla, Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice, Andrew’s eldest daughter.
Because Harry, 38, and Andrew, 62, are no longer senior working royals, Parliament felt it was best to expand the cohort to include two more people who could be called upon to stand in for Charles. The Counsellors of State Act 2022 amends the Regency Acts 1937 to 1953, which were upheld as precedents until this point.
The role is a return for Princess Anne and Prince Edward. The siblings were previously Counsellors of State to Queen Elizabeth before they were overtaken in the line of succession to the throne. Prince Edward is currently 13th while Princess Anne is 16th, having moved down in the order as King Charles and Prince Andrew had children and grandchildren.
With King Charles, Queen Camilla, Prince William and Kate Middleton expected to spend time aboard next year in their elevated royal roles, the BBC previously pointed out that “counsellors could be a necessity when they are away.”
At the end of her reign, the late Queen’s Counsellors of State were then-Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry and Prince Andrew.
Though time had passed — Harry stepped back as a senior working royal and relocated to California in 2020, and Andrew was stripped of his military titles and patronages due to his association with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in January 2022 — they remained Counsellors of State to Queen Elizabeth. Public pressure to change the situation increased after she fought COVID in February, The Independent reported.