Privy Council: The Strange Rituals Of The Body Supposedly 'Snubbed' By Jeremy Corbyn

12/10/2015 16:18 | Updated 12 October 2015

Britain's Privy Council has been in the news this month after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was accused of 'snubbing' The Queen at a meeting when he could have been sworn into the ancient body.

As Corbyn's aides pointed out, many other MPs have also waited some time to be formally sworn in before joining the council.


But the headlines have thrown light on the council: a group of advisors appointed by the monarch.

Though they tent to be mainly honorary positions today, the Privy Council maintains some of its historic importance as a trusted group to support the king or queen - with special privileges and a role in key elements of our national life like Bank Holidays and going to war.

  • 1 Secret oath
    Oli Scarff via Getty Images
    New members of the Privy Council are sworn in through a ceremony where they must kiss the Queen's hand, and repeat a legally binding oath dating back to Tudor times. It used to be considered a criminal offence to reveal the contents of the oath, but it was eventually made public by the Blair government in 1998. Members promise to "not know or understand of any manner of thing to be attempted, done, or spoken against Her Majesty's Person" and "faithfully and truly declare your Mind and Opinion, according to your Heart and Conscience". The oath tends to be to the Christian god, but people can speak a non-religious one if they like.
  • 2 Holiday power
    Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
    Bank holidays depend on the Privy Council's approval. In a recent meeting (they happen every month) the dates of bank holidays in 2016 were confirmed, as well as plans for new coins to mark 100 years since the start of World War One. Bank holidays and new coins are confirmed through Royal Charters through the council, which also deals with giving a "chartered" status to universities, livery companies, and churchyards.
  • 3 Right to succeed
    Terry O'Neill via Getty Images
    One of the Privy Council committees which carry out various duties, is the Baronetage Committee, which was set up in 1910 and examines all claims to the throne. It rejects doubtful ones and puts credible ones on a list of who is in line to succeed The Queen: the 'Roll of Baronets.'
  • 4 Take a seat
    Universal History Archive via Getty Images
    Privy Counsellors are unusual in having the privilege - though it is rarely exercised - to sit on the steps of The Queen's throne in the House of Lords and listen to debates.
  • 5 Personal access
    They also have the right to 'personal access' to the monarch, to ask her advice on public affairs individually. MPs who are not in the Privy Council, however, can only speak to her in groups to consult her.
  • 6 Just say yes
    AFP via Getty Images
    Although The Queen 'approves' any orders discussed in the Privy Council, the last time a monarch actually refused to agree to one was in 1707, when Queen Anne said no to an order that aimed to reorganise the Scottish militia.
  • 7 Early warning
    Anthony Devlin/PA Archive
    One of the other rights of a Privy Council member to be given advanced notice of any decision by the Prime Minister to send British armed forces into action.
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