Could Queen Elizabeth still call off the Olympics? A look at her many powers
By Carrie Mihalcik / current.com / @CDMihalcik
During an opening ceremony spectacle on Friday that will include farm animals, the world's largest harmonically tuned bell and 10,000 volunteer performers, Queen Elizabeth II will officially declare the London 2012 Olympic Games open.
This is the third time the Olympics have been held in London, but only the first under Queen Elizabeth's reign. The International Olympic Committee has already presented her with a gold, a silver and a bronze medal of her own, and when the games are over, the Olympic village will be renamed the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Queen Elizabeth's role during the games is largely social and cultural, but as head of state, she does still wield some authority in England and the 15 realms. She probably couldn't call off the Olympics without taking some very drastic steps — not that she would want to — but here are a few things you might not have known about the queen and her powers:
1. Only the queen can summon, dissolve or pause a session of Parliament. She also opens Parliament each year with a ceremonial address to both Houses; neither House can begin public business until after the queen's speech.
2. After a general election, it is up to the queen to appoint a prime minister. She is guided by constitutional conventions to pick someone who can "command the confidence of the House of Commons." This normally means picking the leader of the party that has the majority of seats in the Commons — but it doesn't have to be.
3. The queen appoints a governor-general to represent her in each of the 15 realms. This person performs various official and ceremonial duties and is completely independent of the British government. You can see the list of the 15 realms and 54 commonwealth countries here.
4. Queen Elizabeth can do no wrong under the law. Civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the queen as a person under British law.
5. Queen Elizabeth is the head of the armed forces. She is the only person who can declare war and peace, though she does so only under the direction of senior government officials. Fun fact: While she was Princess Elizabeth, she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, becoming the first female member of the royal family to be a full-time active member of the armed services.
6. Queen Elizabeth is the Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. She appoints archbishops and bishops, who cannot resign without royal authority. Since the Act of Settlement of 1701, the sovereign has had to swear to maintain the Church of England. No Roman Catholic is allowed to hold the crown, and any member of the royal family who marries a Roman Catholic is removed from the line of succession.
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