How Much Power Does Queen Elizabeth Really Have?

Queen Elizabeth II, who is 96, has ruled longer than any other monarch in British history. In fact, she's celebrating 70 years on the throne with her Platinum Jubilee, from June 2-5. This 4-day bank holiday will feature parades, parties and lots of pageantry. At this point, is the British monarch's role purely ceremonial, or does she hold any real political power? That turns out to be a complicated question. Even though the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, it doesn't have a single codified constitution like the United States. Instead, the power balance between the Crown (the monarchy) and Parliament (the elected officials) is mediated by a set of rules known as constitutional "conventions," some of which are written down and others that are based on custom and tradition. In modern practice the queen wields no real political power to act independently of the wishes of Parliament or the prime minister. She has effectively been stripped of all personal discretion and has no real choice when it comes to who is appointed prime minister. Voters and elected officials make those decisions, while the queen’s only real job is to give her royal stamp of approval.