The Bill of Rights: why the army is ‘British’ and not ‘Royal’


Have you ever wondered why we have a British Army and not a Royal Army or what happened to the Divine Right of Kings?

On December 16th 1689 the Bill of Rights was finally passed as an Act of Parliament (although it had been declared in statutory form since February of that year). This effectively established England as a Constitutional Monarchy with the King or Queen under firm Parliamentary control. Although there were many consequences of the Act I want to point to just two.

Firstly the Bill specifically prevents the monarch from raising an army unless Parliament agrees. The Bill states:

That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law;

So the British Army is, in effect, Parliament’s army, though the Navy and Marines are exempt.

Secondly it is clear that Parliament intended clear rules to which the monarch must adhere, primarily Protestantism. This means that while Parliament were happy that God was pleased to provide a suitable candidate in William and Mary (of Orange), they were clearly not duty bound to accept their claim! So Divine Right was gone and politicians were in control.

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