Privy Council of Barbados

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council Saint Helena Ascension Island

The Privy Council of Barbados was a body that advised the monarch. As part of the Queen's Councils they were considered the first to which the law has assigned the Queen.


In order to assist the Queen in the discharge of her duties, the law had assigned her a diversity of councils to advise with - the High Court of Parliament, the Peers of the Realm, and a council belonging to the Queen have been her judges of the courts of law, for law matters.

But the principal council belonging to the Queen, was her Privy Council (a term appearing after the reign of Henry VI) which Sir Edward Coke's described as noble, honourable, and reverend assembly, of the monarchy, and such as its wills to be his privy council, in its court or palace. The Queen's will is to be the sole constituent of a privy counsellor; their number limited it principal officers of state counsellors (virtute officii); and lords and commoners of Her Majesty's choosing.

Privy Counsellors were made by the Queen's mere nomination, without either patent or grant: and, on taking the necessary oaths, they become immediately privy counsellors (taking the title "Right Honourable") during the life of the sovereign that chooses them, but subject to removal at their discretion.

As to the qualifications of members to sit at this board; any natural-born subject of England, or alien naturalised by act of parliament, was capable of being a member of the privy council on taking the proper oaths. In order to prevent any persons under foreign attachments, from insinuating themselves into this important trust, the "Act of Settlement", was enacted so no person born out of the dominions of the crown of England, unless born of English parents, even though naturalised by parliament, should be capable of being of the privy council. The duty of a privy counsellor appeared from the oath of office, consisting of seven articles:[1]

  1. To advise the Queen according to the best of his cunning and discretion.
  2. To advise for the Queen's honour, and good of the public, without partiality through affection, love, meed, doubt, or dread.
  3. To keep the Queen's council secret.
  4. To avoid corruption,
  5. To help and strengthen the execution of that which shall be there resolved.
  6. To withstand all persons who would attempt the contrary.
  7. To observe, keep, and do all that a good and true counsellor ought to do to his sovereign lady.

The dissolution of the privy council depended upon the Queen's pleasure. There is one privy council for Great Britain which had the same powers and authorities as the privy council of England. There is also a privy council for other domains in the realm (i.e. Ireland).

All the functions of the privy council were, except when the sovereign was actually present, discharged by "Committees" of its members. Of these, the chief are those known by the name of "the cabinet" and the "judicial committee".

The "cabinet" council comprising the select confidential advisers of the sovereign, in all matters of either domestic or exterior policy; consisting of fifteen of the chief officers of state, at the head of whom is the first minister of the crown, who selects the rest, and who, together, confidentially discuss and determine the plans of the government; but who are unknown to the law by any distinct character, or special appointment. Excluded from all business of state, the responsibility of the cabinet (a very delicate question) has no legal responsibility.

The Judicial Committee of the privy council, is a permanent tribunal, invested with great authority (established in 1833) exercises the entire appellate jurisdiction of The Queen in Council; besides which, her Majesty may "refer to it, for hearing, or consideration, any such matter as her Majesty shall think fit, and to advise her Majesty thereon". The range of its appellate jurisdiction is very extensive; comprising all such civil, ecclesiastical, and maritime matters, both at home and abroad, as had theretofore been exercised by the queen in council. Allegations and proofs are made before the committee, consisting of the most eminent lawyers, chiefly judicial, in the kingdom; who then report to the queen in council, by whom judgment is finally given. There must be at least three members present, exclusive of the Lord President.

There are also a "Committee of Council on Education", and another "for the consideration of matters relating to Trade and Foreign Domains" commonly called "The Board of Trade", each of which is entrusted with great powers and responsibilities.

What is done by the privy council, when the queen is personally present, are said to be "acts of the queen, in council".[2]

Barbados Early Governance

Early Legislature composed of a Governor (who was at times also Governor-in-chief of other British West Indies colonial islands including the Windward islands) has an Executive Council consisting of the Governor, Major-General, Colonial Secretary, and Attorney-General, a Legislative Council in which the senior officer commanding the troops, the Colonial Secretary, and the Attorney-General sit ex officio, and a House of Assembly of twenty-four members, elected annually by franchise.[3] The first Governor of Barbados was Henry Powell from 17 February 1627.

The first Council was formed in 1657 under King Charles II and managed by his Governor and the first Privy Council head was Sir Peter Colleton (1673–1674, acting).[4] The first Member of Her Majesty's Council of Barbados in 1657 was William Sharpe.

In 1965 it was recorded that "There shall be a Privy Council for Barbados which shall consist of such persons as the Governor-General, after consultation with the Prime Minister, may appoint by instrument under the Public Seal".[5]

See also the current Judiciary of Barbados and Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the Caribbean Community.

See also


  1. ^ Coke, Edward (1797). The Fourth Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England. p. 54.
  2. ^ Warren, Samuel (1856). The Law and Constitution. pp. 215–221.
  3. ^ Fonblanque, A. G. (1879). How we are Governed...
  4. ^ Schomburgk, R. H. (1848). The History of Barbados...
  5. ^ Peaslee, A. J. (1965). Constitutions of Nations: Parts 1-2. The Americas.