10 laws and rules that don’t apply to British royals: King Charles gets sovereign immunity and passport-free travel while Prince William, Kate Middleton and co enjoy no speed limits and tax exemptions

The British royal family, including Prince George, King Charles, the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince William, are exempt from various laws ... but which ones? Photo: @RoyalFamily/Instagram
It’s no surprise that the British royal family are required to follow an extensive list of rules and pieces of royal protocol.

However, King Charles and his family members also enjoy a number of royal perks. They’re exempt from things like taxes and jury duty … and the king is allowed to break any law.

Here are 10 rules and laws that the British royal family are allowed to break …

1. Sovereign immunity

Britain’s then Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth watch the Trooping of the Colour in London, on June 2, on the first of four days of celebrations to mark the Platinum Jubilee. Photo: AP

King Charles enjoys sovereign immunity, meaning he can’t be prosecuted under a civil or criminal investigation.

This rule also applied to the late Queen Elizabeth, or as he used to call her, “mummy”. According to previous guidance on the royal family’s official website, “although civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the sovereign as a person under UK law”, the queen was careful to ensure that activities in her personal capacity were carried out in strict accordance with the law.

2. Speed limits

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth sits in a car while awaiting an event to begin during the Royal Windsor Horse Show in Windsor, Berkshire, in 2011. Photo: AFP Photo
When the king, prime minister and other members of the royal family are driven by police officers on official royal business, they can drive as fast or as slow as they please.

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According to British media, the Road Traffic Regulation Act gives permission for police, fire, ambulance and other enforcement agency vehicles to break speed limits. Since the royals are always driven by police escorts while completing royal duties, their vehicles are thus exempt from following speed regulations.

3. Passports

Britain’s Camilla, queen consort boards the plane as Britain’s King Charles speaks to people at Aberdeen Airport before travelling to London on September 9, following the death of his mother, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth the previous day. Photo: AFP

Every passport in the United Kingdom is issued with the queen’s name. As a consequence, the queen didn’t need her own passport to travel, according to the royal family’s website.

Following the queen’s death, passports are likely to be altered to reflect King Charles as the new sovereign. However, much like the process of altering British money and stamps, this will be a gradual change, Euronews reported.

All other members of the royal family hold their own passports, the royal family website added.

4. Driving licences

Britain’s then Princess Elizabeth sits at the driving wheel of an ambulance in 1945 after completing a course of driving instruction at the ATS Center to be an officer. Photo: AP

At the age of 18, Queen Elizabeth trained as a driver and mechanic for the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II.

The queen was never required to take an actual driving test and was also able to drive without a number plate because all driver’s licenses in the UK are issued in the queen’s name, according to British media.

British media also reported that King Charles is no longer required to use a driving licence because he is the new monarch, but the same rule doesn’t apply for other members of the royal family.

5. Last names

King Charles and Prince William. Photo: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge/Twitter

The royals are not required to use their legal last names, even though they technically do have one.

Before 1917, members of the British royal family had no surname, but now, the male-line descendants of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip (except for those with the style of royal highness and the title of prince/princess, or female descendants who marry) bear the last name Mountbatten-Windsor, according to the royal family website.

6. Child custody

The British royal family stand together on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for the fly-past at the end of Queen Elizabeth’s birthday parade, Trooping the Colour, in London, in June 2015. Photo: AFP Photo

While regular grandparents have to go through the courts if they want custody of their grandchildren, the monarch has automatic legal custody of all of their descendants and minor grandchildren, royal historian Marlene Koenig told in 2018.

This means Charles technically has custody of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s three children, Prince George, Prince Charlotte and Prince Louis, and Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s children, Archie and Lilibet.

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This 300-year-old rule may seem odd, and though it’s unlikely the king would ever take his grandchildren away from their parents, the law is still technically there.

7. Tax exemptions

Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, then Prince Charles and Princess Anne arrive after walking in a procession behind the coffin of Prince Philip, with other members of the British royal family during his funeral, inside Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, in April 2021. Photo: AP

Members of the royal family are exempt from paying taxes in certain instances.

Though the monarch is not legally required to pay taxes, the queen made voluntary payments on income, assets and gains not used for official purposes.

Other parts of the royal family’s income, like the Prince of Wales’ income from the Duchy of Cornwall, are also exempt from taxes. However, he also “voluntarily pays income tax on all revenue from the estate”, according to the official website.

8. Skipping jury duty

Kate, the Princess of Wales, Prince William, Prince of Wales, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex walk to meet members of the public at Windsor Castle, following the death of Queen Elizabeth, in Windsor, England, on September 10. Photo: AP

One royal perk is that members of the king’s family do not have to take part in jury duty. In normal instances in the United Kingdom, evading jury duty results in a fine of up to £1,000, or around US$1,100.

However, for the king and members of his immediate family, jury duty is not required, The Guardian reported.

9. Two birthdays

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth cuts a cake to celebrate the start of the Platinum Jubilee during a reception in the Ballroom of Sandringham House, the queen’s Norfolk residence, on February 5. Photo: AFP

According to the royal family’s official website, the queen celebrated two birthdays each year: her actual birthday on April 21 and her official public birthday celebration on the second Saturday in June.

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Across generations, sovereign rulers have often held their public birthday celebrations on days other than their actual birthday, especially when their real birth dates fall in the autumn or winter. This is to increase the likeliness of good weather for the annual Trooping the Colour parade, according to the royal family website.

Since King Charles’ birthday is on November 14, he could follow his mother’s lead and have a second celebration in June too, although this is yet to be confirmed.

10. The monarchy is also exempt from the Freedom of Information Act

The British royal family appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Platinum Jubilee pageant outside Buckingham Palace in London, on June 5, on the last of four days of celebrations to mark the Platinum Jubilee. Photo: AP

“The royal household is not a public authority within the meaning of the FOI Acts, and is therefore exempt from their provisions,” according to the royal family website.

This rule allows the royal family to exercise more privacy over their day-to-day duties and financials. For instance, while the royal household releases an annual financial report, the UK public is prevented from accessing detailed information on its spending.

This article originally appeared on Insider.
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  • With King Charles ascending the British throne after the death of Queen Elizabeth, royal fans are wondering – will he get the same benefits as his ‘mummy’?
  • The new monarch is effectively exempt from the law and could even get custody of the kids of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – if he wanted