Well, just when I thought I had understood all the business about the isles along comes a new term 1. Can you explain what's a principality? How is it similiar/different from a state/kingdom(Scotland)?
Its not really that different, except that the Prince of Wales is officially the head of Wales (although as Wales is part of the UK, he still has to do what his ma tells him to). The real reason it came about was because when the English conquered Wales in the middle ages, the King decided to leave his son in charge of the area (partly to keep an eye on the locals [the king didnt have time - a war in Scotland was next on his to-do list] and partly to give his son a bit of practice of ruling an area).
2. Also, what is the house of lords and are these "lords" selected by royal family or are these directly/indirectly chosen by the people? What kind of qualification does one need to be a lord? How much political say do these lords have? What kind of policies can they influence?
The Lords is in the middle of a period of reform at the moment, so its a bit of a muddle. Basically its made up of hereditary peers (who inherit their title and rite to sit in the Lords), some senior church members and "life-peers" - basically ex-MPs who are appointed by a committee to sit in the Lords. The whole thing is a undemocratic mess. The Lords have the ability to block a bill passed by the Commons for up to a year, with the idea being that the Commons will then think about modifying it. The Lords (or a committee from the Lords) also make up the highest court of appeal. The most recent policy that they have had a lot of effect upon has been fox-hunting - a ban on fox hunting has several times been passed by the Commons and then blocked by the Lords (mainly because they are all toffs who hunt as a hobby). Although the Lords does have the advantage that its members get a lot experience because they dont have short terms, and they dont have to tie the party line (meaning, theoretically, that they are more individual in opinion), it is also totally undemocratic, and dominated by the upper class, so many Brits would like to see it reformed.
3. What kind of relationship do all these countries (Australia, NZ, Canada, Tuvalu etc) that you listed have with the crown? Do they pay some taxes the queen? What's in it for these countries? I can understand that UK has always has a monarchy for historical/emotional/functional reason but what does the monarchy bring to the rest of the countries?
The Queen is head of state of these countries, although with the understanding that she will not interfere too much. This has the advantage that the head of the government in these countries cannot have too much power. More than this, it means that there is a certain cultural tie between the countries. Many Commonwealth countries have a lot in common, and there is much trade between them. The Queen acts as a kind of symbol of this commonality. The Queen also does much ambassadorial work between and for these countries. The Commonwealth is in a bit of trouble at the moment, however, as Mugabe tries to drive a wedge between the African and non-African members. There could well be big changes in the Commonwealth soon if this continues, with a large number of countries having republican tendencies.
4. Someone mentioned "other possessions"? What are these?
Some places like the Channel Isles, Gibraltar, Antarctic territories and various small islands do not fit into the categories of countries, but still are ruled by ( or on behalf of) the Queen. The Channel Isles are a particularly odd one - they were part of the Duchy of Normandy, the land ruled by William the Conqueror [the last person to successfully invade England, in 1066]. As the Queen is a direct descendent of William, the Channel Islanders often joke that they rule the UK, not the other way around. Gibraltar is also a difficult issue. It sits in a highly tactical area, so Spain would quite like it. Spain's arguments are: * Its near us, so we should have it. * It used to be part of us, so we should have it. The UK replies: * So what? * You gave it to us in a treaty, you cant go back on that. * Its been ours for longer than America has been in existence. Maybe if we give Gibraltar back, we should demand America, India, Australia back.... no? * You control several cities in Algeria - by your own arguments they should be given back * A recent referendum showed that 95+% of the population of Gibraltar dont want it to go to Spain Spain basically sulks about this, and closes the border on regular occasions.
Originally posted by Falana Dhimkana: Hmmm.... Commonwealth is an interesting thing. I thought India is a republic and is also a part of commonwealth. Do you have to be symolically under the crown to be a part of commonwealth?
India is a republic, is part of the Commonwealth but is not under the British crown. So, a country doesn't have to be under the British crown to be part of the Commonwealth; all a country needs to have been to be a part of the Commonwealth is to have been a British colony in the past. At least that is my understanding on this topic.
Originally they had to have the queen as their head of state, but republican movements in India and Ireland convinced the queen to change the rules. She remains head of the commonwealth, but has stated that this title does not necessarily pass on to Charles when she dies. Stragely enough, Mozambique is a part of the commonwealth, despite never being a part of the British Empire, or ruled by a country that was (eg Namibia was never ruled by the UK, but was by South Africa). This is a bit of a special case though.