Definition of the royal family from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary


the royal family

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(in Britain) the term used to refer to the present Queen and her family: her husband, Prince Philip and their children, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, together with their wives or husbands, children and grandchildren. The wider family, who gather on ceremonial occasions, includes the Queen's cousins and their children. The present royal house (= ruling family) is the House of Windsor and Elizabeth II is descended from William I (1066-97), and before that from Egbert, King of Wessex 802-39. The monarch or sovereign (= king or queen) originally had sole power but over time the sovereign's powers have been reduced and, though the present Queen is still head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, she acts on the advice of her ministers and Britain is in practice governed by Her Majesty's Government. The Queen has some official duties, such as opening a new session of Parliament and giving royal assent to new laws, but her main role is as a representative of Britain and the British people. She is also head of the Commonwealth and works to strengthen links between member countries. Other members of the royal family also represent Britain, act as patrons of British cultural organizations and support the work of charities. Through most of the 20th century, the royal family were only seen on formal occasions and remained distant and dignified. However, at the end of the 20th century, the younger royals began to live more public lives and attracted enormous media attention, and traditional respect for the royal family began to decline. Especially after the death of Princess Diana, the royal family was criticized and many people began to think that they were out of touch with modern attitudes. Since then they have tried to be more open and to meet a wider range of people. Some people in Britain have no strong feelings about the royal family although they might like some aspects of the monarchy to be more modern. Others would not want to see any big changes. There are also people who would prefer not to have a monarchy, to be citizens rather than subjects.