KING of England. The executive power in England is vested in a single person by immemorial usage, to whom the care of the people is entrusted, and to whom, therefore, allegiance is due. Formerly, the succession being interrupt ed, there was occasionally a distinction between a rightful king, or king de jure, and a king in possession of the throne, or king de facto ; and in cases of trea son, and also with respect to many acts done by kings de facto, which were ne cessary to be recognised by kings de jure afterwards, this distinction was of great importance : but it seems now on ly necessary to consider the rightful power and authority of the King, law fully and peaceably in possession of the throne. And in this country the crown is by common law hereditary in a pe culiar manner, but not de jure &vivo ; and it may be changed in the limitation of its descent by the authority of the King, Lords, and Commons, in parlia ment assembled, but it is not elective. As to the mode of inheritance, it is ge nerally the same as other feodal descents, but it differs in one or two particulars ; for it descends regularly to lineal descen dants by right of primogeniture : but in case of no male heir, it descends to the eldest daughter only, and to her issue, and not in coparcenary to all the daughters. In failure of lineal heirs it goes to collateral descendants, but there is no failure on account of half blood. Lands also purchased by the King de scend with the crown. The inheritance is not indefeasible, but may be altered as above, and therefore the statutes have expressed " his Majesty, his heirs, and successors." But, however limited or transferred, it still retains its heredita ble quality to the wearer of it ; and hence the King never dies, but his right vests ea instanti in his heir ; so that hall says, there can be no interregnum, and the death of the King is called the de mise of the crown, which ordinarily means only a transfer from one to an other. If the throne becomes whether by abdication, as in the time of James II., or by failure of all heirs, the two houses of parliament may, it iS said by Blackstone, dispose of it.
The preamble to the bill of rights ex pressly declares, that the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, assembled at Westminster, lawfully, fully, and freely represent all the estates of the people of the English realm. The lords are not less the trustees and guardians of their country than the members of the House of Commons. It was justly said, when the royal prerogatives were suspended, during his Majesty's illness in 1788, that the two houses of Parliament were the organs by which the people expressed their will : and in the House of Com mons, on the 16th of December, in that year, two declaratory resolutions were accordingly passed, importing, 1. The interruption of the royal authority ; 2. That it was the duty of the two Houses of Parliament to provide the means of supplying that defect. On the 23d of the same month a third resolution pass ed, empowering the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain to affix the great seal to such bill of limitations as might be ne cessary to restrict the power of the fu ture regent to be named by Parliament.
This bill was accordingly brought fur. ward, not without considerable opposi tion to its provisions, as well from pri vate motives, as on forcible political grounds ; and at length, happily for the public, arrested in its progress, by the providential recovery of his Majesty, in March 1789. It is observable, how ever, that no bill was ever afterwards in troduced to guard against a future emer gency of a similar nature : on the grounds, undoubtedly, of delicacy to a monarch universally beloved ; in the hope of the improbability that such a circumstance should recur in future ; and in the con fidence of the omnipotence of Parliament, if necessarily called upon again. See Bel sham's " Memoirs of George Ill.," sub. an. 1788-9 : and the " Journals of the Lords and Commons." Towards the end of King William's reign, the King and Parliament thought it necessary to exert their power of limiting and appointing the succession, in order to prevent the vacancy of the throne ; which must have ensued upon their deaths, as no further provision was made at the re volution, than for the issue of Queen Ma ry, Queen Anne, and King William. It had been previously, by the statute 1 William and Mary, stat. 2, c. 2, enact ed, that every person who should be reconciled to, or hold communion with, the see of Rome, who should profess the 'apish religion, or who should marry Papist, should be excluded, and for ever incapable to inherit, possess, or en joy the crown ; and that in such case the people should be absolved from their alle giance (to such person), and the crown should desend to such persons, being protestants, as would have inherited the same, in case the person so reconciled, holding communion, professing, or mar rying, were naturally dead. To act, therefore, consistently with themselves, and, at the same time, pay as much re gard to the old hereditary line as their former resolutions would admit, they turned their eyes on the princess. Sophia, Electress and Dutchess Dowager of Han over : for, upon the impending extinc tion of the Protestant posterity of Charles I., the old law of legal descent directed them to recur to the descendants olJames I. ; and the Princess Sophia, being the youngest daughter of Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, who wag the daughter of James I, was the nearest of the ancient blood-royal, who was, not incapacitated by professing the Popish religion. On her, therefore, and the heirs of her body, being protestants, the remainder of the crown, expectant on the death of King William and Queen Anne, without issue, was settled by stat. 12 and 13 William Ill. c. 2. And at the same time it was enacted, that whosoever should hereafter come to the possession of the crown, should join in the communion of the Church' of England, as by law establish ed.