The Crown

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This article is about the term referring to the state in some nations. For 2016 Netflix television series, see The Crown (TV series).
For other uses, see Crown (disambiguation).
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In jurisprudence in the Commonwealth realms, the Crown dependencies, and any of a realm's provincial or state sub-divisions, the Crown is the state in all its aspects. In countries that do not have a monarchy, the concept may be expressed as the State or the People, or some political entity, such as the United States, the Commonwealth, or the State of [name].

The Crown is a corporation sole that represents the legal embodiment of executive, legislative, and judicial governance. It developed first in the Kingdom of England as a separation of the literal crown and property of the nation state from the person and personal property of the monarch. The concept spread through English and later British colonisation and is now rooted in the legal lexicon of the other 15 independent realms and the three Crown dependencies. In this context it should not be confused with any physical crown, such as those of the British royal regalia.

The term is also found in expressions such as crown land, which some countries refer to as public land or state land, as well as in some offices, such as minister of the crown, crown attorney, and crown prosecutor (other terms being district attorney, state prosecutor, or public prosecutor).


The concept of the Crown took form under the feudal system.[1] Though not used this way in all countries that had this system, in England, all rights and privileges were ultimately bestowed by the ruler. Land, for instance, was granted by the Crown to lords in exchange for feudal services and they, in turn, granted the land to lesser lords. One exception to this was common socage—owners of land held as socage held it subject only to the Crown. The Crown as ultimate owner of all property also owns any property which has become bona vacantia.

The monarch is the living embodiment of the Crown and,[2] as such, is regarded as the personification of the state.[n 1][3][4][5][6][7][8][9] The body of the reigning sovereign thus holds two distinct personas in constant coexistence: that of a natural-born human being and that of the state as accorded to him or her through law; the Crown and the monarch are "conceptually divisible but legally indivisible ... [t]he office cannot exist without the office-holder".[n 2][10] The terms the state, the Crown,[11] the Crown in Right of [jurisdiction], Her Majesty the Queen in Right of [jurisdiction],[12] and similar are all synonymous and the monarch's legal personality is sometimes referred to simply as the relevant jurisdiction's name.[7][13]

As such, the king or queen is the employer of all government officials and staff (including the viceroys, judges, members of the armed forces, police officers, and parliamentarians),[n 3] the guardian of foster children (Crown wards), as well as the owner of all state lands (Crown land), buildings and equipment (Crown held property),[14] state owned companies (Crown corporations), and the copyright for government publications (Crown copyright).[15] This is all in his or her position as sovereign, and not as an individual; all such property is held by the Crown in perpetuity and cannot be sold by the sovereign without the proper advice and consent of his or her relevant ministers.

The Crown also represents the legal embodiment of executive, legislative, and judicial governance. While the Crown's legal personality is usually regarded as a corporation sole,[16] it can, at least for some purposes, be described as a corporation aggregate headed by the monarch.[17][18] (Neither are to be confused with entities incorporated by charter or statute.)

Divisibility of the Crown[edit]

Historically, the Crown was considered to be indivisible. Two judgments—Ex parte Indian Association of Alberta (EWCA, 1982) and Ex parte Quark (House of Lords, 2005)—challenged that view. Today, the Crown is considered separate in every country, province, state, or territory, regardless of its degree of independence, that has the shared monarch as part of the local government, though, limitations on the power of the monarch in right of each territory vary according to relevant laws, thus making the difference between full sovereignty, semi-sovereignty, dependency, etc. The Lords of Appeal wrote: "The Queen is as much the Queen of New South Wales and Mauritius and other territories acknowledging her as head of state as she is of England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom.".[19]

Commonwealth realms[edit]

The Crown in each of the Commonwealth realms is a similar, but separate, legal concept. To distinguish the institution's role in one jurisdiction from its place in another, Commonwealth law employs the expression the Crown in right of [place]; for example, the Crown in right of the United Kingdom,[20][21][22][23] the Crown in right of Canada, the Crown in right of the Commonwealth of Australia, etc. Because both Canada and Australia are federations, there are also crowns in right of each Canadian province and each Australian state.[24]

The Crown's powers are exercised, either by the monarch personally or by his or her representative in each jurisdiction, on the advice of the appropriate local ministers, legislature, or judges, none of which may advise the Crown on any matter pertinent to another of the Crown's jurisdictions.

Crown Dependencies[edit]

In Jersey, statements by the Law Officers of the Crown define the Crown's operation in that jurisdiction as the Crown in right of Jersey,[25] with all Crown land in the Bailiwick of Jersey belonging to the Crown in right of Jersey and not to the Crown Estate of the United Kingdom.[26] The Succession to the Crown (Jersey) Law 2013 defined the Crown, for the purposes of implementing the Perth Agreement in Jersey law, as the Crown in right of the Bailiwick of Jersey.[27]

Legislation in the Isle of Man also defines the Crown in right of the Isle of Man as being separate from the Crown in right of the United Kingdom.[28]

In Guernsey, legislation refers to the Crown in right of the Bailiwick,[29] and the Law Officers of the Crown of Guernsey submitted that "[t]he Crown in this context ordinarily means the Crown in right of the république of the Bailiwick of Guernsey"[30] and that this comprises "the collective governmental and civic institutions, established by and under the authority of the Monarch, for the governance of these Islands, including the States of Guernsey and legislatures in the other Islands, the Royal Court and other courts, the Lieutenant Governor, Parish authorities, and the Crown acting in and through the Privy Council."[31] This constitutional concept is also worded as the Crown in right of the Bailiwick of Guernsey.[32]

British Overseas Territories[edit]

Following the Lords' decision in Ex parte Quark, 2005, it is held that the Queen in exercising her authority over British Overseas Territories does not act on the advice on the government of the UK, but in her role as Queen of each territory, with the exception of fulfilling the UK's international responsibilities for its territories. The reserve powers of the Crown for each territory are no longer considered to be exercisable on the advice of the UK government. In order to comply with the court's decision, the territorial governors now act on the advice of each territory's executive and the UK government can no longer disallow legislation passed by territorial legislatures.[33]

In the courts[edit]

In criminal proceedings, the state is the prosecuting party and is usually designated on the title or name of a case as "R v" - where R can stand for either Rex (if the current monarch is male) or Regina (if the monarch is female) versus the defendant; for example, a criminal case against Smith might be referred to as R v Smith, and verbally read as "the Crown against Smith".

In Scotland, criminal prosecutions are undertaken by the Lord Advocate (or the relevant Procurator Fiscal) in the name of the Crown. Accordingly, the abbreviation HMA is used in the High Court of Justiciary for "His/Her Majesty's Advocate" in place of Rex or Regina, as in HMA v Al Megrahi and Fahima.

In Australia, each State uses R in the title of criminal cases and The Queen in criminal appeal cases (i.e., the case name at trial would be R v Smith, if appealed the case name would be Smith v The Queen). Judges usually refer to the prosecuting party as simply "the prosecution" in the text of judgments (only rarely is The Crown used in the text, and never R). In civil cases where the Crown is a party, it is a customary to list the appropriate government Minister as the party instead.

In New Zealand court reporting, news reports will refer to the prosecuting lawyer (often called a Crown prosecutor, as in Canada and the United Kingdom) as representing the Crown, usages such as "For the Crown, Joe Bloggs argued..." being common.

This practice of using the seat of sovereignty as the injured party is analogous with criminal cases in the United States, where the format is "the People" or "the State v. [defendant]" (e.g., People of the State of New York v. LaValle or Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Brady) under the doctrine of popular sovereignty. In Federal criminal cases, it is "United States v. [defendant]," as in United States v. Nixon.

The Crown can also be a plaintiff or defendant in civil actions to which the government of the Commonwealth realm in question is a party. Such Crown proceedings are often subject to specific rules and limitations, such as the enforcement of judgments against the Crown.

Crown forces[edit]

The term Crown forces has been applied by physical force Irish republicans to British-authorised security forces on the island of Ireland, including the British Armed Forces and armed police such as the Royal Irish Constabulary and Royal Ulster Constabulary, which are seen as enemy combatants or an occupation force.[n 4][35][36][37] Irish nationalist historical narrative may apply Crown forces to earlier forces raised by the Dublin Castle administration at intervals since the Tudor conquest of Ireland to suppress various Irish uprisings.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See note 12 at Monarchy of Canada.
  2. ^ See note 13 at Monarchy of Canada
  3. ^ See note 14 at Monarchy of Canada.
  4. ^ In Danny Morrison's words, "[t]he term 'security forces' suggests legitimacy, which is why republicans prefer terms like 'the Brits' or 'the Crown Forces', which undermines their authority."[34]


  1. ^ The Crown as Corporation, Frederic Maitland, Law Quarterly Review 17 (1901) pp. 131-46[1]
  2. ^ Elizabeth II (2005), Interpretation Act, 46.1.b, Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada (published 1 April 2005), retrieved 7 August 2009 
  3. ^ Cabinet Secretary and Clerk of the Executive Council (April 2004), Executive Government Processes and Procedures in Saskatchewan: A Procedures Manual (PDF), Regina: Queen's Printer for Saskatchewan, p. 10, retrieved 30 July 2009 
  4. ^ The Royal Household. "The Queen and the Commonwealth > Queen and Canada > The Queen's role in Canada". Queen's Printer. Retrieved 15 May 2009. 
  5. ^ MacLeod, Kevin S. (2012), A Crown of Maples (PDF) (2 ed.), Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, p. 51, ISBN 978-0-662-46012-1, retrieved 28 November 2012 
  6. ^ Marleau, Robert; Montpetit, Camille (2000), House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, ISBN 2-89461-378-4, 1. Parliamentary Institutions > Institutional Framework > The Crown  [dead link]
  7. ^ a b Table Research Branch of the House of Commons (March 2008). "Compendium of Procedure". Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada. p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 December 2009. Retrieved 14 October 2009. 
  8. ^ Citizenship and Immigration Canada (2009), Discover Canada (PDF), Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, p. 2, ISBN 978-1-100-12739-2, retrieved 3 December 2009 
  9. ^ Tidridge, Nathan (2011), Canada's Constitutional Monarchy: An Introduction to Our Form of Government, Toronto: Dundurn Press, p. 17, ISBN 9781459700840 
  10. ^ Bowden, James; Philippe, Lagassé (6 December 2012), "Succeeding to the Canadian throne", Ottawa Citizen, retrieved 6 December 2012 [dead link]
  11. ^ Elizabeth II (9 October 2012), Financial Administration Act, 83.1: Queen's Printer for Canada, retrieved 6 December 2012 
  12. ^ Elizabeth II (21 May 2004). "Memorandum for Understanding of Cooperation on Addressing Climate Change" (PDF). Toronto: Queen's Printer for Canada. p. 1. Retrieved 16 May 2009. 
  13. ^ Elizabeth II (2004). "A First Nations – Federal Crown Political Accord". 1. Ottawa: Assembly of First Nations. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 December 2009. Retrieved 29 September 2009. 
  14. ^ Department of National Defence. "DCBA 414 011759Z Apr 09 MFSI Annual Rates for the Fiscal Year 2009/2010". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 16 May 2009. [dead link]
  15. ^ Canada (PDF) (Map). Queen's Printer for Canada. 2006. Retrieved 16 May 2009. 
  16. ^ George V (9 April 1925), "s. 180", Law of Property Act 1925, London: Queen's Printer 
  17. ^ Maitland, Frederic (1901), "The Crown as Corporation", Law Quarterly Review (17): 131–46 
  18. ^ The Law Commission (November 1996), "Paper 143: The execution of deeds and documents by or on behalf of bodies corporate" (PDF), Halsbury's Laws of England (Affidavit) (4 ed.) (Lincoln County, Nevada, published 1974) 9, 1206 
  19. ^ Lords of Appeal, Ex parte Quark, 2005
  20. ^ Lauterpacht, E.; Greenwood, C. J. (1992). International Law Reports 87. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 286, 713. ISBN 978-0-949009-99-9. 
  21. ^ Royal Institute of International Affairs (1983). The British Year Book of International Law 53. British Institute of International Affairs. Oxford: H. Frowde. pp. 253, 257, 258. 
  22. ^ Bourne, C. B. (1986). Canadian Yearbook of International Law 23. Vancouver: UBC Press. ISBN 978-0-7748-0259-8. 
  23. ^ The Australian law journal 52. North Ryde: Law Book Co. of Australasia Ltd. 1978. pp. 58, 203, 207. 3910867. 
  24. ^ Ministry of Natural Resources (24 January 2006), Disposition of Public Land to Other Governments and Agencies (PDF), Toronto: Queen's Printer for Ontario, p. 2, at 3.2.B, retrieved 25 April 2010, When public land is required by the federal government or one of its departments, or any provincial ministry, the land itself is not transferred. What is transferred is the responsibility to manage the lands on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen (HMQ). This is accomplished by an Order-in-Council or a Minister's Order that transfers management of land either from HMQ in right of Ontario to HMQ in right of Canada as represented by a department or to HMQ in right of Ontario as represented by another ministry. The Crown does not transfer ownership to itself. 
  25. ^ "Review of the Roles of the Crown Officers" (PDF). Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  26. ^ "WRITTEN QUESTION TO H.M. ATTORNEY GENERAL". Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  27. ^ "Succession to the Crown (Jersey) Law 2013". States of Jersey. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  28. ^ "The Air Navigation (Isle of Man) Order 2007 (No. 1115)". Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  29. ^ "The Unregistered Design Rights (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Ordinance, 2005". Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  30. ^ "Review of the Roles of the Jersey Crown officers" (PDF). Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  31. ^ "It's a power thing…". Guernsey Press. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  32. ^ "Review of the Roles of the Jersey Crown officers" (PDF). Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  33. ^ Overseas Territories: Seventh Report of Session 2007-08, Vol. 2: Oral and Written Evidence. London UK: The Stationery Office, Jul 6, 2008, pp. 49, 296-297
  34. ^ Morrison, Danny (24–26 January 2004). "Saving 'Bobby Sands Street' > Words of Freedom". Irish History. Irlandinitiative Heidelberg. Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  35. ^ Hawes-Bilger, Cordula (2007). War Zone Language: Linguistic Aspects of the Conflict in Northern Ireland. Francke. p. 148. ISBN 9783772082009. 
  36. ^ O'Neill, Conor (2004). "Terrorism, insurgency and the military response from South Armagh to Falluja". The RUSI Journal 149 (5): 22–25. doi:10.1080/03071840408523120. ISSN 0307-1847. 
  37. ^ Tomaney, John (2000). "End of the Empire State? New Labour and Devolution in the United Kingdom". International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 24 (3): 675–688. doi:10.1111/1468-2427.00271. ISSN 0309-1317. 
  38. ^ Ferriter, Diarmaid (2012-11-01). Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s. Profile Books. p. 247. ISBN 9781847658562. Retrieved 21 August 2015. Because of the events of the War of Independence, the phrase 'Crown Forces' came to represent something abhorrent in the Republican narrative.