THE British monarch has legal duties to perform, as well as ceremonial and representative functions to discharge. For example, the monarch’s assent is legally required before a Bill or an Order in Council can pass into law; some appointments only take effect when they are formally approved by the monarch, which is sometimes signified by the Queen’s personal signature, the royal sign manual, or at others by personal delivery by the monarch of seals of office. Some types of document require as a matter of law the affixing of the Great Seal, which can usually be done only by virtue of a warrant under the royal sign manual: examples include royal proclamations (say to dissolve Parliament), or Letters Patent (say to confer a peerage or to ratify a treaty). Because the monarch is part of the legal machinery of government it is essential that the monarch is always available to function as such; but because a monarch is only human there will be times when, because of absence or illness, this is impossible.
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