Privy Council

(redirected from Privy councillor)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

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most of the judicial and political functions it exercised since the middle of the seventeenth century and has largely been replaced by the Cabinet.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 ?
Unlike Privy Councillor - a far inferior racehorse - Kris is unable to add a Classic victory, losing to Tap On Wood in the 2,000 Guineas, but he establishes himself as an outstanding miler.
Mr Huhne resigned from the Cabinet when he was charged with perverting the course of justice, and later quit as a Liberal Democrat MP and privy councillor.
The former Deputy PM reveals in his Sunday Mirror column today that he has resigned after 19 years as a Privy Councillor because of a Government move that he says "borders on a conspiracy to delay Press regulation".
England's King Already known as - hold your breath now - His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Meirioneth, Baron Greenwich, Royal Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Grand Master and First and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire, Member of the Order of Merit, Companion of the Order of Australia, Extra Companion of the Queen's Service Order, Royal Chief of the Order of Logohu, Canadian Forces Decoration, Lord of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Privy Councillor of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, and Personal Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty, you'd have thought he had quite enough.
Despite his firebrand past, in recent years he had come to be regarded as an elder statesman and was made a privy councillor in recognition of his years of parliamentary experience.
Isaac, a carpenter and undertaker's son, who became a solicitor, MP, government minister and Privy Councillor, admired Oliver Cromwell's secretary John Milton.
Salmond, who was in London to be invested as a Privy Councillor by the Queen, insisted he would continue to claim the allowance "for the time being".
His wife is Baroness Symons, Privy Councillor and highflier in Labour Party circles.
Well, Sir, in 1908 and 1909 Mr JH Thomas, then living at 117 Splott Road and who was later to become a privy councillor and serve as a Minister of the Crown for eight years, twice stood unsuccessfully for what was then the Cardiff Municipal Council.
A motion calling for the 88-year-old former War Secretary to be reinstated as a Privy Councillor has been signed by more than 30 MPs.
Where the previous two editions had, based on the testimony of the informant from the Tower garrison, identified Sir John Baker as the Privy Councillor who, along with Thomas Wriothesley, racked Askew, in the 1583 edition, Baker's name was replaced with that of Sir Richard Rich (p.
The 48-year-old Trade and Industry Minister had gone to the Palace earlier this month to be sworn in as a Privy Councillor.