The first Regency period ran from 1811 to 1820, and covered the years in which King George III had to give his full powers to his son, King George IV, because of his health. (What the exact illness which the King had is still a hotly debated topic, but the general consensus is that it was probably bipolar disorder or the blood disease porphyria.) That was the first Regency, and now it looks as if the UK may be entering its second Regency in a couple of years if the latest word from royal author Phil Dampier is to be believed.
Queen Elizabeth is reportedly planning to trigger the Regency Act and relinquish some of her powers to Prince Charles, the heir to the throne. Previously our Queen made it clear that she regards her current position as a lifelong duty and would therefore not step down. She is still not intending on abdicating, but instead when she reaches 95 in a couple of years she may slow down and possibly the Regency Act will be brought in. She will still be Queen but Prince Charles will, in fact, take over most of the duties. In recent years Prince Charles has been increasingly taking on some of her royal duties. He has been at the state opening in Parliament and at the Commonwealth conference.
If the Regency Act is set in place, it will regulate the process of setting up a regency. According to the Regency Act of 1937, Prince Philip, the Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons must be able to provide evidence that the Sovereign is unable to perform her functions before the Regency Act takes effect. (One final thought, if the Queen does trigger the Regency Act, and we do enter our second Regency era, can we please bring back Spencer jackets and elegant summer balls filled with dancing and refined music?)
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It’s hard to imagine a time when Queen Elizabeth will no longer reign! She has been part of our lives, history and commentary for so long that it’s going to take a lot of practice when we have to start saying “King Charles”!!
What an interesting idea. Although you refer to the First and Second Regency, there have been numerous regencies in English history – for instance during the minority of Henry III and the illness of Henry VI. Katherine of Aragon and Catherine Parr were also regents for Henry VIII while he was away at war. There are many others. However, I’m not sure of the legal statuses of these earlier regencies, so you are probably right in that the regency of George III is the only modern regency and any subsequent regency would be covered by the same statute.