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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