Even the most knowledgeable royal fan might not be aware of this 300-year-old law pertaining to custody of royal children. The sovereign at the time has legal custody of the minor grandchildren, says royal historian Marlene Koenig in a news.com.au report.
“This goes back to King George I (who ruled in the early 1700s), and the law’s never been changed,” she explains. “He did it because he had a very poor relationship with his son, the future King George II, so they had this law passed that meant the King was the guardian of his grandchildren. The law was reportedly passed in 1717 and legislated again in 1772 and hasn’t been amended since.
This means that Queen Elizabeth II once had custody of Prince William, Prince Harry and their cousins when they were minors. Interestingly though, it is unclear if she custody of Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Princes Louis, Archie, and her other great-grandchildren as King George I didn’t have great-grandchildren when the law was drafted.
However, according to the law, once Prince Charles becomes king, he will have custody of his four grandchildren. News.com.au reports that the term ‘custody’ in this case refers to the sovereign having a say in their grandchild’s travel, education and upbringing. The original law starts that the monarch is in charge of “ordering the place of their abode,” “appointing their governors and governesses,” “education and care,” and the “care and approbation of their marriages.”
In fact, Prince Charles has had to ask his mother’s permission to fly his sons out to Scotland, according to news.com.au. In another instance, the Queen did not authorize Prince William and Prince Harry to travel to Australia when Princess Diana asked to bring her sons there shortly before her death. “Technically, they needed permission for travel. The Queen has the last word on parenting decisions like that,” the historian noted.
In addition, when Prince Charles and Princess Diana and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson divorced, there was nothing in their papers that pertained to custody of their children, as would be expected in regular divorce papers. “Custody is not included because they did not legally have custody of their children to begin with.” Although legislation is still in place nowadays, the royal family “doesn’t make a big deal” out of it.