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form the duties thereof, as if he had voluntarily taken it upon himself.
Thus king William accepted the kingly office as it stood according to the constitution of the realm, and, having accepted it, he became bound by the obligations appertaining thereto, not by his own consent or contract, but by the law of England. The frame of the constitution was not dissolved by the forfeiture of the crown by king James. There was nothing wanting to render the constitution complete but a king. The convention-parliament, who called king William to the throne, were tferefore clearly not competent to enter into an original contract, establishing by their consent on what terms the crown should be held. They, moreover, did not assume any such power, but simply called the prince and princess of Orange to the crown.
We may conclude from these principles, and from the impossibility of discovering at what time and in what manner an original contract was entered into between the sovereign and the people, that that contract is a mere legal fiction.
The principal duty of the queen is to govern her people according to law. And this limitation of the royal authority by law is, as Blackstone informs us, not only consonant to the principles of nature, but has always been esteemed an express part of the law of England. "The king," saith Bracton, who wrote under Henry III., "ought not to be under man, but under God and the law, because the law maketh the king. Let the king, therefore, ascribe to the law what the law ascribeth to him,—to wit, domination and power; for there is no king where will ruleth, and not the law."1
Fortescue, after having distinguished between a des1 Bracton, l . i. c. viii.
potic monarchy and a limited monarchy (of which last species he asserts the government of England to be), immediately lays it down as a principle, that " the king of England must rule his people according to the decrees of the laws thereof; insomuch that he is bound by an oath at his coronation to the observance and keeping of his own laws."1 But, to obviate all doubts and difficulties concerning this matter, it is expressly declared by the statute 12 and 13 Wm. III. c. ii., " that the laws of England are the birthright of the people thereof; and all the kings and queens who ascend the throne of this realm ought to administer the government of the same according to the said laws; and all their officers and ministers ought to serve them respectively according to the same; and therefore all the laws and statutes of this realm, for securing the established religion and the rights and liberties of the people thereof, and all other laws and statutes of the same now in force, are ratified and confirmed accordingly."
The substance of the duties incumbent on the sovereign by the constitution of England is contained in the coronation-oath, which, by the stat. 1 W. & M. st. i. c . vi., is to be administered to every king and queen who shall succeed to the imperial crown of these realms by one of the archbishops or bishops of the realm, in the presence of all the people.
It must, however, be observed, that as the subject is bound by the same duty towards the crown before as after taking the oath of allegiance, so the nature of the obligations of the sovereign are not in any way altered by the administration of the coronation-oath, which seals with a solemn religious sanction the obligations inherent in the regal office within these realms.
1 Fortescue, c. ix. and xxxiv.
The coronation-oath is conceived in the following terms:—
"The archbishop or bishop shall say, ' Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the people of this kingdom of England and the dominions thereto belonging according to the statutes in parliament agreed on, and the laws and customs of the same?' The king or queen shall say, 'I solemnly promise so to do.' Archbishop or bishop: 'Will you to your power cause law and justice in mercy to be executed in all your judgments?' King or queen: 'I will.' Archbishop or bishop : 4 Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel, and the Protestant reformed religion established by law; and will you preserve unto the bishops and clergy of this realm, and to the churches committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain unto them, or any of them?' King or queen: ' All this I promise to do.' After this, the king or queen, laying his or her hand upon the holy gospels, shall say, • The things which I have here promised, I will perform and keep: so help me God;' and shall then kiss the book."
Such is the form of the oath which our laws require to be taken by the sovereigns of these realms at their coronation. The chief articles are of great antiquity; but the wording of the oath was altered by the stat. 1 W. & M. st . i. c. vi., to render it free from doubt, and conformable to modern laws and usages.
It is also enacted by the act of union, 5 Anne, c. viii., reciting and confirming two preceding statutes, one of the parliament of England, the other of the parliament of Scotland, that every king at his accession shall take and subscribe an oath to preserve the Protestant religion and Presbyterian Church-government; the latter, that at his coronation he shall take and subscribe a similar oath to preserve the settlement of the Church of England within England, Ireland, Wales, and Berwick, and the territories thereto belonging.
OF THE QUEEN'S PREROGATIVE.
We have already seen that the absolute sovereignty of this empire is vested in the parliament, composed of the queen, the lords, and the commons—an unlimited power, which has indeed (by a somewhat bold figure of speech) been called the omnipotence of parliament. Our constitutional law, however, awards the attribute of sovereignty or majesty to the crown alone; and for this there are abundant reasons.
In the crown is vested the whole executive power; and it is one branch, or rather the very head, of the legislature. The crown is also the fountain of justice, from whence the whole judicial authority flows. It follows that the crown is clothed with the greatest part of that supreme authority whereby the commonwealth is governed. Moreover, the parliament is assembled only at certain times and seasons, while the existence of the crown is uninterrupted and perpetual. And this is wisely ordained, because it would be highly prejudicial to the interests of the state that the management of all public affairs should be centred in the great council of the nation, as they inevitably would be, if that body were perpetually assembled. The deliberations of so numerous an assembly are defective in the many cases in which despatch and secrecy are requisite; and indeed the uninterrupted continuance of legislation would be seriously inconvenient to the administration of public affairs.