Can a member of the Royal Family go to jail?


Queen Elizabeth II rides on a horse-drawn carriage with Prince Andrew
Do the royals get immunity? (Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Although the Royal Family work hard to maintain an air of aloofness and almightiness through their strict rules and strange fashion codes, they are still human underneath it all.

Just like any dysfunctional family, the Queen’s brood have had some brushes with the law, with the most notable case as of late revolving around Prince Andrew.

It’s thrown into question whether or not royals can be arrested or put in jail – and has this ever happened before?

Here, Metro.co.uk explains whether royals can spend time behind bars.

Can a member of the Royal Family go to jail?

The Royal Family can indeed go to prison if they are found to have committed a crime.

This means that if a royal acts unlawfully, then they are in the same position as any other UK citizen, with no special immunity.

The Royal Family stand on the balcony outside Buckingham Palace
The royals have no special immunity – apart from the Queen (Picture: Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)

The question has come up recently in relation to Prince Andrew, the Duke of York – though his case is civil and there are no criminal proceedings meaning that a jail sentence is not currently on the table.

Jeffrey Epstein survivor Virginia Guiffre has launched a civil case against the Duke, alleging that he sexually abused her when she was a 17-year-old sex slave.

Prince Andrew strongly denies the accusations, and no arrests have been made at the time of writing.

On January 13, Buckingham Palace released a statement saying that Prince Andrew will have to fight the lawsuit ‘as a private citizen’, meaning that he will have to fund the defense himself.

The Queen will not help to fund his legal bills.

The fees are estimated to total up to £6million, according to Mail Online, not including the unspecified damages he would have to pay Ms Guiffre if he loses the case.

Prince Andrew
Prince Andrew will defend the lawsuit ‘as a private citizen’ (Picture: Steve Parsons – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Have any royals gone to prison?

No royals have ever been convicted or gone to prison, but a handful have landed in legal hot water.

In 2002, Princess Anne became the first member of the Royal Family to be convicted of a criminal offense. 

She pleaded guilty to a charge under the dangerous dogs’ act after Dottie, her three-year-old English bull terrier, bit two children in Windsor Great Park. 

The Princess was fined £500 and ordered to pay £250 in compensation and £148 in cost.

Princess Anne walks some English Bull Terriers
Princess Anne got in trouble when one of her dogs bit two children (Picture: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

That wasn’t the only time where Princess Anne got in trouble with the law – in 2001, she was fined £400 for speeding in her Bentley after admitting to driving at 93mph in a 70mph zone in Gloucestershire.

In a separate later incident her daughter, Zara Tindall, was banned from driving for six months after being caught speeding at 91mph.

In 2019, a probe against Prince Philip was dropped after the late Duke handed in his driving license following a crash that left a woman hospitalised.

Emma Fairweather cradling her broken arm
Emma Fairweather, 46 at the time, was a passenger in the Kia involved in the crash and later received a letter from the duke wishing her a ‘speedy recovery’ (Picture: Rex)

Can The Queen go to prison?

The Queen is covered by what is known as ‘sovereign immunity’ in the UK.

This means that the ruling monarch cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil or criminal proceedings

The Royal Household website states: ‘In the earliest times the Sovereign was a key figure in the enforcement of law and the establishment of legal systems in different areas of the UK.

Queen Elizabeth II in her crown
The Queen has ‘sovereign immunity’ (Picture: Geoff Pugh – WPA Pool /Getty Images)

‘As such the Sovereign became known as the “Fount of Justice”.

‘While no longer administering justice in a practical way, the Sovereign today still retains an important symbolic role as the figure in whose name justice is carried out, and law and order is maintained.’

Her influence extends to her family, as nobody can be arrested in her presence or in the surroundings of a royal residence.

MORE : What’s next for Prince Andrew after failing to have sex lawsuit thrown out

MORE : Prince Andrew breaks cover as he’s seen leaving Windsor home after court ruling

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