Privy Council

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to Privy Council: Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

Privy Council

The Privy Council is the British Crown's private council. It is composed of more than three hundred members, including cabinet members, distinguished scholars, judges, and legislators. Once a powerful body, it has lost most of the judicial and political functions it exercised since the middle of the seventeenth century and has largely been replaced by the Cabinet.

The Privy Council derived from the King's Council, which was created during the Middle Ages. In 1540 the Privy Council came into being as a small executive committee that advised the king and administered the government. It advised the sovereign on affairs of state and the exercise of the royal prerogative. It implemented its power through royal proclamations, orders, instructions, and informal letters, and also by giving directions to and receiving reports from the judges who traveled the circuits, hearing cases in cities and towns, twice a year. It concerned itself with public order and security, the economy, public works, public authorities and corporations, local government, Ireland, the Channel Islands, the colonies, and foreign affairs.

The inner circle of advisers in the Privy Council met in the royal chamber or cabinet and was therefore called the cabinet council. In the eighteenth century, the cabinet became the council for the prime minister, the leader of Parliament. The United States adopted the cabinet idea, though its legal status is not identified in the Constitution. Cabinet members are presidential advisers who serve as Executive Branch department heads.

The power of the Privy Council disappeared between 1645 and 1660 during the English Civil War and the government of Oliver Cromwell. It never recovered its former position. Long policy debates shifted to Parliament, and important executive decisions went to committees. In modern days members of the Privy Council rarely meet as a group, delegating their work to committees.

The lord president of the council, who is a member of the cabinet, is the director of the Privy Council Office. The most important committee is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which comprises all members of the council who have held high judicial office. Usually, however, three to five Lords of Appeal sit to hear appeals from the United Kingdom, the British Crown colonies, and members of the Commonwealth. The committee does not give a judgment but prepares a report to the sovereign, and its decision may be implemented in an Order in Council. The work of the committee has diminished because it rarely hears ecclesiastical appeals and because many Commonwealth countries have abolished the right of appeal.

Further readings

Lehrfreund, Saul. 1999. "The Death Penalty and the Continuing Role of the Privy Council." New Law Journal (August 20).

Owen, D.H.O. 1992. "The Privy Council and the Professional Foul." Medico-Legal Journal 60 (spring).


Curia Regis.

See: bench

Privy Council (PC)

the great council of state comprising the sovereign and the councillors. Councillors are addressed as ‘The Right Honourable’. The cabinet discharges the advice function, and a judicial committee sits as the highest court of appeal for some Commonwealth states such as New Zealand and formerly for Canada and Australia. It now has power to adjudicate on certain aspects of devolution, notably under the Scotland Act 1998 and to declare legislation incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998.

PRIVY COUNCIL, Eng. law. A council of state composed of the king and of such persons as he may select.

References in periodicals archive ?
Although Jeremy was unavailable for today's meeting, he has confirmed he will be joining the Privy Council," the spokesman said .
News of her appointment reached Ms McVey through a phone call from 10 Downing Street - almost as the new members to the Privy Council were being announced.
Its chairman, John Whittingdale, has already expressed his support for the Press proposal before the Privy Council.
The second method is far more objective, using software analysis techniques, collectively known as the digital humanities, both to discern the emphases of the reports and to demonstrate how the Clerk of the Privy Council has used its power of narrative.
Newman principal and vice chancellor Professor Peter Lutzeier said: "I'm delighted that we've now received the green light from the Privy Council to use the full university title.
In a final ruling, the UK Privy Council said on January 30 that Cukurova should have the option to buy back the shares - which offer Altimo a controlling stake.
It was a major achievement of the Quaid-i-Azam aimed at removing the 'disability and great hardship' that had been created by the decision of the Privy Council in the case of Abul Fata Mahomed Ishak and others v.
This lively narrative history of Benjamin Franklin's final few years in England before the Revolutionary War examines the Hutchinson Letters Affair, a defining moment in the worsening relations between Britain and the colonies, and Franklin's admission before the Privy Council that he was the source of the leaked documents.
Yesterday, five Law Lords at the Privy Council unanimously rejected Warren's appeal against some of the evidence used to snare him when he was arrested in Jersey in 2007 for a pounds 1m drugs plot.
The UK Privy Council has approved the use of Eur Ing as a pre-nominal, in front of the name and before all other ranks and titles, for example Eur Ing J.
It is common sense that once we give Privy Council the role of appointing or selecting the judges, that might affect the independence of judiciary.