Coronavirus could see Prince Harry forced to return to UK after fleeing to LA

The coronavirus outbreak could see Prince Harry forced to return to the UK thanks to an old law.

In 1911, then-monarch King George V created what is called the Counsellors of State.

This means that if the Queen cannot carry out her official duties because of illness or because she is abroad, two or more Counsellors can be appointed to take over her duties, such as signing documents, appointing judges, receiving new Ambassadors and preside over Privy Council meetings.

The last time this was used was in 2015 when the Queen appointed Counsellors of State when she went to Malta for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

As per the current rules, which were last tweaked in 1937, the Counsellors of State have to be appointed from a specific group.

This includes the Queen's husband and the first four people in line to the throne who are over 21.

If the Queen is unable to carry out her duties, this would mean the current list of potential Counsellors of State is Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry, and Prince Andrew.

The current coronavirus crisis makes it unlikely that Philip or Charles would be able to step in.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said all British people over 70 should self-isolate.

The Queen, 93, has moved to Windsor Castle with a small number of staff, while 98-year-old Prince Philip has also been relocated from Sandringham to Windsor.

Prince Charles, 71, has coronavirus and is currently staying in Balmoral, the Queen's remote Scottish estate with Camilla, 72.

With the Covid-19 crisis set to continue for a number of weeks or even months, these four royals will be effectively out of action for the time being.

Prince Andrew was forced to resign as a working member of the Royal Family last year following a car crash BBC interview.

He has faced major criticism for his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and it's unlikely he would be called upon to act as a Counsellor of State.

Prince William would, therefore, be the most obvious candidate to be a Counsellor, but the next most-likely would be Harry.

Although he's no longer a working royal, he could still legally become a Counsellor, and would only become ineligible if he is no longer officially domiciled in the UK.

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Explaining the process, Craig Prescott from the University of Winchester said: "There have been occasions when legislation urgently requires royal assent.

"There is a small, but genuine risk that the non-availability of Counsellors of State could impede the operation of the constitution."

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