Historically, the British sovereign's private council. Once powerful, the Privy Council has long ceased to be an active body, having lost most of its judicial and political functions since the middle of the 17th century. It grew out of the medieval curia (curia regis), which comprised the king's tenants in chief, household officials, and other advisers. The curia performed all the functions of government in either small groups, which became the king's council, or large groups, which grew into the great council and Parliament. It now is chiefly concerned with issuing royal charters, conducting government research, and serving as an appeals body for ecclesiastical and other lesser courts. See also prerogative court.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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