From a note posted to Baen's Bar Snerkers Only dated November 16, 2005:

Power of the Manticoran Monarchy

    QUESTION:

    We've seen the Crown bend to the the Opposition at the end of Ashes of Victory. If push comes to shove in a future book, will the Navy follow the lead of the PM? Or the Crown?

    The debacle of War of Honor leads me to the conclusion that the PM would win. So… just what does the Crown control?

    If Beth's intransigence about the Republic leads the government to oppose her, who wins?

    ([This Committee member] really need[s] to reread the end of Ashes on the potential of a showdown between the Lords and the Crown.)

    The point was made when someone commented "if Elizabeth is opposed to some policy or action that finds favour with 3/4 of both the Commons and Lords then why bother to impeach her. We have already seen that she has little or no control over a government that opposes her."

     

    ANSWER:

    Short version: Elizabeth has considerable power/control over a government which opposes her under normal circumstances.

    Long version: Looking at the points raised above in order, let's begin with who the Navy would follow, the Prime Minister or the Crown.

    If you'll remember there was a moment there in Field of Dishonor when Baroness Mourncreek, then the First Lord of Admiralty, was talking with Sir Thomas Caparelli, and Caparelli mentioned that he'd been in direct contact with the Duke of Cromarty about the possibility of conducting active operations even without a formal declaration of war.

    Caparelli says:

    "Just how bad is the situation, Milady? I spoke with Duke Cromarty yesterday and assured him the Navy would support him, but…" Caparelli broke off as Morncreek looked at him sharply, then he shrugged. "I thought you knew he'd commed me, Milady."

    "Well, I didn't. Nor did he happen to mention it when we spoke this afternoon. Exactly what sort of 'support' did you promise him?"

    "Nothing at all on the domestic side, Milady." Caparelli was careful to avoid words like "coup,"

    Now, we're talking about a conversation he had with the Prime Minister, not with the Queen, but in this instance, the Prime Minister in question and the Queen in question were in complete agreement on policy matters. The real point which had Mourncreek worried was that under the Manticoran Constitution, the military answers directly to the Crown. It's charged with respecting and defending the Constitution, but Queen Elizabeth, in her own person, is the commander in chief of the Manticoran military and the officers' oaths are to the Crown, and the prestige of the monarchy is such, that in a confrontation with anything but an overwhelming majority in Parliament, the military of those officers might well choose to accept the monarch's orders over those of Parliament, which is not in their formal chain of command. If the Prime Minister in question was an obvious dolt -- or, in the case of High Ridge, a knave and poltroon -- the monarch would stand an excellent chance of coming out on top in any competition for the Navy's loyalty.

    As far as the formation of a government the monarch opposes is concerned, it doesn't happen very often in the Star Kingdom of Manticore, for a lot of reasons.

    When the High Ridge Government was formed, Elizabeth chose to acquiesce rather than creating a potential constitutional crisis at that moment. Had she known that High Ridge would accept Saint-Just's proposed truce and settle for something less than complete military victory, her choice would probably have been different. Essentially, Elizabeth's problem was that not simply the personal alliances which Cromarty had put together to maintain his majority in the House of Lords, but also a sort of consensual deferment of debate over certain domestic political issues, disappeared with his death. There are reasons for this which I didn't go into in the books in enormous detail. Perhaps I should have.

    Warning: much political discussion follows.

    I know some people are perturbed with the amount of political background I've put into some of the books, but as Clausewitz said, politics are the womb of war, and the political background and climate which apply at any given moment are of critical importance. As an example of that, let's look at the domestic political background against which High Ridge came to power.

    The books have focused primarily on the foreign-policy agendas and military policies of the political parties. I've mentioned many times that there were domestic issues, as well, but I haven't focused on them the way that I have on those driving immediate military decisions. That doesn't mean those domestic issues are unimportant, however.

    During the run-up to the First Havenite War, domestic political points of contention tended to get pushed onto a back burner. In some ways, I suppose, it would parallel the US political experience during the Cold War years. There were lively points of contention throughout, there was domestic unrest over specific issues and social changes, etc., but at moments when international tensions rose particularly high, those domestic issues tended to take a backseat compared to the necessity of dealing with the immediate problem of national survival. For the Star Kingdom, the buildup to the war with the Republic of Haven didn't come easily at first. Remember that King Roger had a lot of trouble getting his original military buildup under way. By the time Queen Elizabeth took the throne, that was beginning to change. By the time we got close to the actual outbreak of hostilities -- On Basilisk Station -- it was pretty much obvious to anyone who didn't have his head stuck firmly into the sand that war was coming.

    That transitional period was the time frame in which Cromarty was able to begin weaning the independents away from the major opposing political parties in the House of Lords. The Centrists were already well on their way to being the outright majority party in the Commons, but it was the House of Lords, with its control of fiscal legislation and the requirement that any Prime Minister had to come from among its members, which was the stumbling point.

    As the Star Kingdom slid into actual hostilities with the People's Republic, during the period between On Basilisk Station and The Short Victorious War, the Centrists' political clout in the House of Commons became more and more ascendant. In the House of Lords, Cromarty's personal alliances were almost -- not quite, but almost -- enough to support a declaration of war after the Battle of Hancock Station. He would have had the votes he needed in the House of Lords, if not for the fashion in which the Conservatives were prepared to fasten upon the issue of Pavel Young's court martial. With the assistance of the Liberals, and the leverage of the famous files collected by Pavel's daddy to pry independents lose from Cromarty on this one issue, the Conservatives were able to delay the declaration. It's unlikely that they could have stopped it, but enough of the independent peers saw it as a reasonable political quid pro quo ("business as usual" for a patronage-riddled system), that everything was put on hold while it was dealt with. Had the opening engagements of the war not gone so heavily in the Star Kingdom's favor, and had there not been a perception that the People's Republic of Haven was about to collapse and self-destruct in the wake of Rob Pierre's coup, High Ridge wouldn't have been able to pull enough of the independents behind him, even with the North Hollow files, to delay the declaration (or save Pavel).

    Following that little semi-debacle, when it became obvious that the People's Republic not only wasn't going to self-destruct, but was going to become even more dangerous than before, Cromarty (as the political leader who'd warned everyone it was likely to happen) was clearly in the ascendant in the House of Lords. The Centrists' prewar policy stance was amply vindicated, the military was winning a steady procession of victories against a numerically hugely superior opponent, and he was actually managing to maintain the Star Kingdom's economic prosperity at the same time. The Centrists' powerbase in the House of Commons grew to an outright majority. In the House of Lords, although they remained short of a majority, they were the largest single party by a considerable margin, and the imperatives of fighting a war for survival pretty much restricted the opposition parties to impotence where issues impinging directly upon the conduct of the war and ways to finance it were concerned.

    That did not mean domestic issues were taken completely off the table, however. There continued to be significant disagreement on a lot of social issues and domestic political agendas. The Centrists were what might be called social moderates on most of those issues, but to be perfectly honest, domestic issues were never central to the Centrist agenda. They were focused on winning the war and surviving, and they approached domestic issues on a pragmatic basis, primarily in terms of how those issues impinged on their ability to get on with winning (and surviving). That left their opponents on both sides of the political spectrum equally unhappy with them.

    As the war continued, as part of their pragmatism, the Centrists relied more and more heavily on their support in the House of Commons. Remember that there had been an ongoing, evolving dynamic tension between the Crown, the Lords, and the Commons from the very founding of the Star Kingdom. The drafters of the original Constitution had set out to design a system which would protect their own political power, and that of their descendents, by making the House of Lords the dominant element of the government. From Elizabeth I on, however, the Crown had been whittling away at the Lords' dominance, beginning with the advantage of the powers specifically granted to the Crown -- direct control of the military, the constitutional right to reject any minister of government (including the Prime Minister) regardless of the majority he could produce in Parliament, direct appointment of judges (with the approval of Parliament -- both houses), etc. -- and allying with the Commons to oppose the advantages of the Lords' constitutional powers. This has been an ongoing thread of the Star Kingdom's domestic political evolution from the very beginning.

    When Operation Buttercup broke the back of the People's Republic's military capability, a lot of the factors conspiring to keep the lid on the pot, domestically speaking, abruptly disappeared. The assassination of the Duke of Cromarty, with the attendant disruption of his government and the abrupt dissolution of his personal alliances with the independent Lords, suddenly disordered all of the political equations which had appeared so stable when no immediate end of the war had been in prospect. The combination of those two factors threw the political balance in the House of Lords into abrupt confusion.

    Essentially, what happened was that the House of Lords, which had seen itself losing ground to the Commons under the Centrists while they fought the war, found itself face-to-face with the sudden disappearance of the man who had dominated the Star Kingdom's political scene for something like 50-plus years (Cromarty) and the realization that the Star Kingdom had won. That they no longer had to maintain solidarity (or, at least, acquiescence) under Cromarty's policy initiatives in order to survive. If you will, the "peace dividend" had arrived, and they wanted it distributed now. That would probably have been enough to produce a rather more… lively domestic political scene, but the frosting on the cake was that the House of Lords had recognized for a long time that Cromarty (and the Centrists) were far more in sympathy with the Crown's desire to reduce the Lords' dominance over the Commons than they were with the Lords' desire to maintain the traditional political balance. The move to admit San Martin to the Star Kingdom, with the ability to appoint new peers who would be sympathetic to the Crown/Centrists' desire to "geld" the House of Lords, only added to their sense of being threatened.

    So, a solid majority in the Lords found itself prepared to support a High Ridge government out of self-interest; a legitimate belief (in many cases) that the existing, acknowledged constitutional distribution of powers had worked well; an agreement to give each of the major political parties (aside from the Centrists, that is) at least a substantial portion of its long-sought domestic political goals; and (where necessary) judicious pressure exerted courtesy of the North Hollow files. Note that I said "a solid majority," because that's the critical point.

    Under the Constitution, Elizabeth could have rejected High Ridge. She could also have rejected any or all of the proposed members of his government, singly or as a group, and demanded that he submit a new list acceptable to her. The problem was that at that moment High Ridge had the votes in the House of Lords to block any other choice for Prime Minister, and that Elizabeth did not have the votes to defeat him. The result would have been a deadlock, and since the Prime Minister had to command a majority in the Lords, not the Commons, a general election would not have changed the political balance in the Lords in Elizabeth's favor.

    At the moment that Elizabeth was faced with High Ridge's refusal to form an "all-parties government," the war was still going on, military operations were still proceeding, Saint-Just had not yet proposed his truce, and Elizabeth had no reason -- at that point -- to expect High Ridge to accept Saint-Just's proposal even if she'd known it was likely to come along. In short, with the situation in such flux and with the military situation so fraught with opportunity (and the risk that some or all of those opportunities might slip away if they weren't gathered in immediately), Elizabeth chose not to reject High Ridge as her Prime Minister.

    By the time the truce was proposed, High Ridge was already firmly ensconced in the premiership. Elizabeth could have fired him, could have dismissed his entire government if she so chose. But she could not summon a general election on her own initiative -- she would have needed a majority vote from the House of Lords in favor, which she wasn't going to get -- and even if she could have, once again, the existing political set up in the Star Kingdom left the House of Lords (which would not have been affected by the election, at least until it confirmed and seated the new San Martino peers) in a position to block any actions by the Star Kingdom.

    Probably, even without Operation Thunderbolt, Elizabeth would have been able to dismiss High Ridge and replace him with Willie Alexander within a few months of when she actually did. Events were steadily hammering the High Ridge Government and its support in the House of Lords, and the destruction of the North Hollow files had a major impact on High Ridge's ability to blackmail his fellow peers into obeying him. That wasn't apparent to Eloise Pritchart from Nouveau Paris, however, and even if it had been, she had no way of telling how much of what she believed High Ridge's foreign policy to be reflected Elizabeth's own desires. As the tension between the two star nations grew worse, Elizabeth once more found herself in a situation in which the notion of provoking a constitutional crisis in a showdown with the House of Lords didn't seem like a very good idea. Nor would getting rid of High Ridge have undone the underlying, institutional damage the Star Kingdom's basic war fighting ability had already suffered. And, of course, Elizabeth had no idea that something like Thunderbolt -- and the destruction of the entire modern navy building at Grendelsbane -- was in the cards.

    So, Pritchart attacked, the High Ridge government fell, and Elizabeth was able to put in the Prime Minister she'd wanted all along. The power of the House of Lords has been sharply reduced, she has the full-blooded support of the House of Commons, and she has the full moral authority of the House of Winton behind her. In short, she is very well placed to exercise her constitutional authority to "fire" an unsatisfactory prime minister any time she wants to.

    Should something happen to bring the Grantville Government as a whole into opposition to her, the situation could get… messy. At the moment, however, most political analysts would back Elizabeth as the almost certain winner. Willie himself reflects at one point that even if he disagreed with Elizabeth -- which, at that time, he doesn't -- and chose to resign in protest, she could easily find someone else to take his place. This is intended to clearly imply, although I didn't take the time to state it expressly, since I was trying to hold the political underbrush to a minimum, that Elizabeth's bellicosity enjoys widespread political support in the House of Lords, as well as from the Manticoran population generally.

    Should Elizabeth find herself in a position down the road where a clear majority of the House of Lords strongly disagreed with her and could rally behind a single leader, she would find herself once again in much the same position she was with High Ridge. She could permanently block the formation of any government she didn't want, but she couldn't compel the formation of a government she did want. Once again, constitutional crisis. And, once again, something to be avoided in a desperate military situation. Almost certainly, the majority of the House of Lords would continue to back Elizabeth in the name of wartime solidarity, and her support in the House of Commons is a foregone conclusion for the foreseeable future.

    In theory, the House of Lords could move to impeach Elizabeth if she truly dug in her heels and simply refused to accept any government it nominated. The leadership in the Lords would have to convince a sufficient majority of its own house to go along with the motion, and then it would have to convince a sufficient majority of the House of Commons to sustain the impeachment. That's unlikely to happen. If, however, it appeared likely that an impeachment would be voted out of the Lords and sustained by the Commons, a politician as astute as Elizabeth would almost certainly bow to the inevitable and accept the policies she opposed rather than establish a precedent of the successful impeachment of ruling monarchs.

    Some people have commented that a truly astute politician would have worked at dividing the High Ridge Government's members, or at least detaching their support in the House of Lords, rather than essentially throwing down her gage and warning them that they were now enemies to the knife. In fact, it probably wouldn't have mattered a great deal. What High Ridge (and his supporters) wanted was for Elizabeth to acquiesce in their own desire to prevent the constitutional reform (or realignment, depending on your perspective) which generations of the House of Winton had sought. That wasn't something she could give them without breaking faith with the Crown's long-term (as in "generational") allies and supporters. At the same time, she refused to give them any legitimacy outside their cronies in the House of Lords, trusting that, eventually, the voter support High Ridge's various pork barrel schemes were buying in the short term would evaporate. In a sense, her political strategy was to allow High Ridge to blot his copybook in every conceivable way while making it clear that she, as Queen, was opposed to many of his policy initiatives. Without knowing about Bolthole, or Giancola, she had no more reason than anyone else to expect an immediate and disastrous change in the military balance, and so she was prepared to play a waiting game (which the House of Winton had done many times in the past; remember her warning to High Ridge in Ashes of Victory about her dynasty's long memory) until, eventually, High Ridge overreached. At that point, she would have been well placed for a political riposte, following his fall from grace, which would probably have allowed her to accomplish most of her political goals. As, in fact, happened, if under rather more traumatic circumstances then she would have preferred.

    The critical point, however, is that without some rallying point which combines an unbreakable majority in the House of Lords in opposition to the Crown, Elizabeth has very great effective power. She's a very hands-on head of state, and she has the power to fire anyone who disagrees with her or declines to enforce the policy she favors. When High Ridge was forced upon her, it was only by the confluence of a lot of factors which are unlikely to arise again.