Crown land (also royal domain or demesne) is an area belonging to the monarch ("the Crown"), the equivalent of an entailed estate that passed with the monarchy and could not be alienated from it. Today, in Commonwealth realms such as Canada and Australia, the term is used to refer to public land.
In Britain, the hereditary revenues of Crown lands provided income for the monarch until the start of the reign of George III when the Crown Estate was surrendered to the Parliament of Great Britain in return for a fixed civil list payment – the monarch retains the income from the Duchy of Lancaster.
In the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its predecessor the Austrian Empire Crown lands were alternative administrative units to duchies, as in the Kingdom of Poland and its successor, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
- 1 Australia
- 2 Austria
- 3 Barbados
- 4 Canada
- 5 France
- 6 Poland and Lithuania
- 7 Hawaii
- 8 United Kingdom and its predecessor states
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
In Australia, public lands are referred to as Crown land. Public lands includes land set aside for nature conservation and various government or public purposes, as well as vacant land. Public lands comprise around 23% of Australian land, of which the largest single category is vacant land, comprising 12.5% of the land. 
Crown land is held in the 'right of the Crown' of either an individual State or the Commonwealth of Australia; there is not a single 'Crown' (as a legal governmental entity) in Australia (see The Crown). Various States have differing policies towards the sale and use of Crown lands within the State; for instance, New South Wales passed a controversial reform in 2005 requiring Crown lands to be rated at market value.
Crown land is used for such things as airports (Commonwealth) and public utilities (usually State).
In Tasmania, Crown land is managed under the Crown Lands Act 1976. In South Australia, the relevant Act is the Crown Land Management Act 2009. In Victoria, it is the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 and the Land Act 1958.
Most public lands in Australia are held by the Crown in the right of each State. The only crown land held by the Commonwealth consists of land in the Northern Territory (surrendered by South Australia), the Australian Capital Territory, and small areas acquired for airports, defence and other government purposes.
From the late 18th century onwards, the territories acquired by the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy were called crown lands (German: Kronländer). Initially ruled in personal union by the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, they played a vital role as constituent lands of the Habsburg nation-building and ultimatively were re-organised as administrative divisions of the centralised Austrian Empire established in 1804.
By the 1861 February Patent, proclaimed by Emperor Franz Joseph I, the Austrian crown lands received a certain autonomy. The traditional Landstände (estates) assemblies were elevated to Landtage legislatures, partly elected according to the principle of census suffrage.
After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the Kingdom of Hungary (with the Principality of Transylvania), the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia and Fiume became constituent parts of the Lands of the Crown of Saint Stephen (Transleithania); ruled in real union with the remaining Austrian crown lands (officially: "The Kingdoms and Lands represented in the Imperial Council") of Cisleithania until the disintegration of the dual monarchy in 1918.
The term crown land, extends to all land that is under the control or ownership of The Crown (a.k.a. the Government). This can pertain to land seized by the government, (either through eminent domain or due to criminal activity), or toward lands with backed taxes. The term Crown lands has been used in relation to government owned farms, beaches, and other land areas also maintained by the National Housing Corporation. The Government does not allow private ownership of Barbados' 97 km. of coastal beaches in the country, and all areas below the high-tide watermark in the country are considered specifically as "Crown land".
Within Canada, Crown Land is a designated area belonging to the Queen in Right of Canada, the equivalent of an entailed estate that passes with the monarchy and cannot be alienated from it; thus, per constitutional convention, these lands cannot be unilaterally sold by the monarch, instead passing on to the next king or queen unless the sovereign is advised otherwise by the ministers of the Crown. Though the Canadian monarch owns all Crown Land in the country, paralleling the "division" of the Crown amongst the federal and provincial governments, Crown Land is similarly divided so that some lands within the province are administered by the provincial Crown, whereas others are under the federal Crown. About 89% of Canada's land area (8,886,356 km²) is Crown Land, which may either be federal (41%) or provincial (48%); the remaining 11% is privately owned.
Most federal Crown land is in the Canadian territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon), and is administered by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Only 4% of land in the provinces is federally controlled, largely in the form of National Parks, Indian reserves, or Canadian Forces bases. In contrast, provinces hold much of their territory as provincial Crown Land, which may be held as Provincial Parks or wilderness.
Crown Land provides the country and the provinces with the majority of their profits from natural resources, largely but not exclusively provincial, rented for logging and mineral exploration rights; revenues flow to the relevant government and may constitute a major income stream, such as in Alberta. Crown Land may also be rented by individuals wishing to build homes or cottages.
In the province of Alberta, Crown Land, also called public land, is territory registered in the name of "Her Majesty the Queen in right of Alberta as Represented by [specific Minister of the Crown]" and remains under the administration of the mentioned minister until the land is sold or transferred via legislation, such as an Order in Council. Crown Land is governed by the Public Lands Act, originally passed as the Provincial Lands Act in 1931 and renamed in 1949.
Ninety-four percent of the land in British Columbia is provincial Crown Land, 2% of which is covered by fresh water. Federal Crown Land make up a further 1% of the province, including Indian reserves, defence lands and federal harbours, while 5% is privately owned. The Ministry of Agriculture issues Crown Land tenures and sells Crown Land on behalf of the Crown in Right of British Columbia.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Currently, 48% of New Brunswick's territory is Crown Land, used for such things as for conservation projects, resource exploitation, and recreation activities. However, through treaties between First Nations and the Crown in Right of Canada, the provincial Crown grants or denies long term use of Crown Lands by aboriginals, as per the treaties.
As of October 2013, of the 5.3 million hectares of land in Nova Scotia, only about 1.53 million hectares (3.8 million acres or about 29% of the province) is designated as Crown land. Crown land is owned by the Province and managed by the Department of Natural Resources on behalf of the citizens of Nova Scotia. It is a collective asset which belongs to all Nova Scotians. Many acres of Crown land are licensed for a variety of economic purposes to help build and maintain the prosperity of the Province. These purposes range from licenses and leases for cranberry bogs, forestry operations, peat bogs, power lines, wind energy, to broadband towers, and tidal energy. In addition, most of the submerged lands (the sea bed) along the Province's 9,000 km of coastline are also considered Crown land. Exceptions would include federally and privately owned waterlots. The Province owns other land across Nova Scotia, including wilderness areas, protected areas, highways, roads, and provincial buildings. These parcels and structures are managed and administered by other departments and are not considered Crown land.
By the Crown Lands Act, the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council alone has the ability to augment or disperse Crown Land and to determine the price of any Crown Land being bought or leased. Crown Land is used for varying purposes, including agriculture, wind farming, and cottages, while other areas are set aside for research, environmental protection, public recreation, and resource management. Approximately 95% of the province's forests sit within provincial Crown Land.
The crown lands, crown estate, royal domain or (in French) domaine royal of France refers to the lands and fiefs directly possessed by the kings of France. Before the reign of Henry IV, the domaine royal did not encompass the entirety of the territory of the kingdom of France and for much of the Middle Ages significant portions of the kingdom were direct possessions of other feudal lords.
In the 10th and 11th centuries, the first Capetians—while being rulers of France—were among the least powerful of the great feudal lords of France in terms of territory possessed. Patiently, through the use of feudal law (and, in particular, the confiscation of fiefs from rebellious vassals), skillful marriages with female inheritors of large fiefs, and even by purchase, the kings of France were able to increase the royal domain, which, by the 16th century, began to coincide with the entire kingdom. However the medieval system of appanage (a concession of a fief by the sovereign to his younger sons and their sons after them, although they could be reincorporated if the last lord had no male heirs) alienated large territories from the royal domain and created dangerous rival territories (especially the Duchy of Burgundy in the 14th and 15th centuries).
Poland and Lithuania
- Similar use: this section is about the "public, state properties" of Polish and "Polish-Lithuanian" Kings, for unit of administrative division inter alia in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth see: Crown (not to be mistaken with "Crown lands").
The Crown lands were known there as królewszczyzny (sing. królewszczyzna) which translates to regality or royal land.
In the Kingdom of Poland under the rules of Piast then Jagiellonian dynasties the institution of crown lands was similar to those in Great Britain or Austria-Hungary, the lands were the property of the monarch or dynasty.
Since 15th century the properties have often been leased, gifted or hocked to the members of nobility. Those nobles who had received the privilege of administering the Crown lands (and thus keeping most of its profits) had the title of Starosta. Once given a Crown land, one had the right to keep it 'for life'.
Families of Starostas often wanted to unlawfully keep the royal properties, and that led to common abuses of law (see following sections).
Formally (compare with the following sections) "royal lands" could form about 15–20% of Poland (later, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), and were divided into two parts:
- the table lands (dobra stołowe or ekonomie), which were providing money for the king's personal treasure and expenses, among them the support of the army (wojsko kwarciane)
- the rest, which the king was obliged to lease to the outstanding members of the nobility.
Factual condition in the Crown (here: administrative unit)
Mostly due to lack of constant dynasty in Poland (see: Royal elections in Poland), royal lands were under notorious, often illegal, control of powerful local magnates, sometimes even semi-independent from the state.
Ruch egzekucyjny (execution movement) of the late 16th century, led by Lord Grand Chancellor of the Crown Jan Zamoyski (interestingly also against the interests of his own family), put as one of its goals the 'execution of lands', i.e. return of all Crown lands, which were often illegally held by next generations of Starostine families. In 1562–1563 they forced most of the Crown land in the Crown of the Polish Kingdom to be returned to the monarch, however later the whole cycle repeated. In the following centuries Ruch egzekucyjny (lit. execution movement) and subsequently elected Kings were gradually weakened because szlachta achieved more and more privileges – the "Golden" Liberty.
Eventually the nobility controlled most of the Crown lands. People without a formal title of nobility inherited or granted were not allow to be infeudated with regalities.
After the First Partition of Poland, which was a tremendous experience for most Polish nobility, crown lands were reformed in 1775, lessening the abuses of the nobility, and the Great Sejm of 1788–1792 decided to put them on sale, to raise funds for reforms and modernising the army.
After the following partitions of Poland in 1795 the "royal lands" were directly annexed by the partitioning powers.
Factual condition in Lithuania
In the Great Duchy of Lithuania political nation did not follow experience of neighbouring Poland. Lithuanian magnates retained such lands in their hands.
Prior to the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy, the Hawaiian monarchs had access to 1.8 million acres (7,300 km²), the private lands of Kamehameha III which he set aside for the dignity of the royal office for the ruler of the Hawaiian Monarchy on 8 March 1848 during the Great Mahele. Kamehameha III and his successors made these lands their private property, selling, leasing or mortgaging at their enjoyment. At the death of Kamehameha IV, it was decided by the Kingdom's Supreme Court that under the above-mentioned instrument executed by Kamehameha III, reserving the Crown Lands, and under the confirmatory Act of 7 June 1848, "the inheritance is limited to the successors to the throne", "the wearers of the crown which the conqueror had won," and that at the same time "each successive possessor may regulate and dispose of the same according to his will and pleasure as private property, in like manner as was done by Kamehameha III." Afterwards an Act was passed 3 January 1865, "relieve the Royal Domain from encumbrances and to render the same inalienable." This Act provided for the redemption of the mortgages on the estate, and enacted that the remaining lands are to be "henceforth inalienable and shall descend to the heirs and successors of the Hawaiian Crown forever," and that "it shall not be lawful hereafter to lease said lands for any terms of years to exceed thirty." The Board of Commissioners of Crown Lands shall consist of three persons to be appointed by His Majesty the King, two of whom shall be appointed from among the members of His Cabinet Council, and serve without remuneration, and the other shall act as Land Agent, and shall be paid out of the revenues of the said lands, such sum as may be agreed to by the King."
The lands were held by Queen Lili'uokalani before 17 January 1893. On this date, the royal power was overthrown. The crown lands were taken in charge by the provisional and republican governments. When The Republic of Hawaii joined the United States in 1898, the territorial government took ownership. In 1910, Liliuokalani, the former Queen, unsuccessfully attempted to sue the United States for the loss of the Hawaiian Crown land.
In March 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, reversing the Hawaii Supreme Court’s holding that the federally enacted Apology Resolution bars the State of Hawaii from selling to third parties any land held in public trust until the claims of native Hawaiians to the lands have been resolved. The Court first held that it had jurisdiction to review the Hawaii Supreme Court’s opinion because it rested on the Apology Resolution. It then found the Hawaii Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Apology Resolution to be erroneous, and held that federal law does not bar the State from selling land held in public trust. Accordingly, it remanded the case for the Hawaii Supreme Court to determine if Hawaiian law alone supports the same outcome.
United Kingdom and its predecessor states
- Air rights
- Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (in the UK)
- Crown copyright
- Easement ("the right of use over the real property of another")
- Freedom to roam
- Land law
- Prior-appropriation water rights
- Riparian water rights
- Land Tenure at Geoscience Australia
- Crown land rent changes spark concerns for clubs, ABC News, 10 November 2005
- Barbados Government: Crown Lands (Vesting and Disposal) – CAP.225,
- "More homes on the way". The Barbados Advocate. 2008-11-09. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
- Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. "Federal Crown Land". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
- Government of Alberta (September 1997), About Public Lands, Queen's Printer for Alberta, retrieved 18 October 2012
- V.P. NEIMANIS. "Crown Land". The Canadian Encyclopedia: Geography. Historica Foundation of Canada. Retrieved 12 February 2007.
- Elizabeth II (2004). "Alberta Land Titles Procedures Manual". Background (CRG-3 ed.). Edmonton: Alberta Queen's Printer (published 12 November 2004). p. 1. Retrieved 1 February 2009.
- Elizabeth II 2004, Regisration Procedure A.1
- Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. "Crown Land Fact Sheet". Queen's Printer for British Columbia. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
- Mitchell, Simon, J. (June 2003), Who Owns Crown Lands?, Falls Brook Centre, retrieved 15 May 2011
- Crown Land in Nova Scotia, Province of Nova Scotia, October 2013, retrieved 8 December 2014
- Elizabeth II, Crown Lands Act, Queen's Printer for Manitoba, retrieved 22 June 2012
- "Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives: Agricultural Crown Lands Leasing Program". Gov.mb.ca. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
- "Government of Manitoba: Some Questions and Answers Regarding Manitoba's Crown Land Policies for Wind Farms" (PDF). Retrieved 5 December 2012.
- "Forests". Manitoba Wildlands. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
- "Hawaiian Kingdom – History of Land titles". Hawaiiankingdom.org. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
- Polish PWN encyclopedia on 'Królewszczyzna'
- The Canadian Encyclopedia – Crown land
- Crown Land in Canada
- Archives of Ontario: Crown Land Records
- United Kingdom Crown Estate
- Crown Land Reference For Canada