Prince Philip was in a nasty car wreck this week, and the event has raised questions about whether or not members of the royal family can be arrested – for example, what if the Duke of Edinburgh had been driving under the influence or had been driving recklessly?
As Yahoo News reports, the answer is pretty clear: they can be arrested, unless they’re the monarch or in her presence.
To make things simple, the sovereign (currently Queen Elizabeth) cannot be arrested or charged with any crime. That’s because the queen is at once above the law and is the law. More specifically, she has what’s called “Sovereign Immunity,” meaning that essentially nothing she does could ever be considered a crime.
All other members of the royal family, including Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and everyone else, are fair game for arrest.
But, the queen’s presence does give a sort of “sanctuary” status to those around her. Officers of the law cannot place anyone under arrest in the presence of the queen; so technically anyone could escape arrest simply by hanging around Her Majesty 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
The law also prohibits police from entering certain royal residences, such as Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace, meaning that a royal scofflaw could take up residence in one of their homes and simply not come out. The downside is that they can’t leave.
Of course, no royal in modern history has done either of those two things. And as it turns out, at least one Windsor has been on the wrong side of British law, several times. All of her crimes, which you’ll read about below, were relatively “minor” as crimes go and didn’t require an arrest, complete with handcuffs and a mug shot and all that. But they do go to show that the royal family is not above the law.
Princess Anne, who is Prince Charles’ younger sister, seems to have something of a lead foot. According to a 2001 report from the Guardian, Anne had by that time wracked up several speeding tickets, going back to the 1970s, often exceeding the limit by 20 or more miles per hour. In almost all cases, she had to pay various fines or got off with a written warning.
Then in 2002, as the Guardian reported, Anne was made to pay fines and restitution after one of her dogs bit two children as they were walking in a London park.