The precise title King of Ireland has only been used during two periods of Irish history. These were from 1541 until 1801, and from 1927 to 1949. Prior to 1541 there were a series of High Kings of Ireland as well as Lords of Ireland. From 1801 to 1927 the head of state reigned not as 'King of Ireland', but as 'King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland'.
After the Irish Free State seceded from the United Kingdom in 1922, the question of whether the King reigned, in Ireland, as 'King of the United Kingdom' or as 'King of Ireland' took on important constitutional significance.
Kingdom of Ireland (1541-1801)
The position of 'King of Ireland' was created by an act of the Irish Parliament in 1541, which replaced the Lordship of Ireland which had existed since 1171 with the Kingdom of Ireland. The Crown of Ireland Act established a personal union between the English and Irish crowns, providing that whoever was king of England was to be king of Ireland as well, and so its first holder was King Henry VIII of England. For a brief period in the seventeenth century, from the overthrow of Charles I in 1649 to the Restoration in 1660, there was no 'King of Ireland' but during that time Oliver Cromwell, and his son Richard reigned as Lords Protector. In 1707, when England joined with Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, the personal union changed to one between the Irish and the new British crown. The Kingdom of Ireland came to an end in 1801 when the Act of Union united Ireland and Great Britain into a single kingdom. Hence-forth both were reigned over, under a single crown, by the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Irish Free State (1927-1936)
Main article: Monarchy in the Irish Free State
In 1922 the southern twenty-six counties of Ireland seceeded from the United Kingdom as the Irish Free State. The Irish Free State was established as a form of constitutional monarchy. However, until 1927, its King was formally the 'King of the United Kingdom'. However, five years later, in 1927, the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act revived the title of King of Ireland as a separate position to the British crown. As before 1801, the two crowns existed in a personal union.
The change in the Free State's monarchy from 'King of the United Kingdom' to 'King of Ireland' granted the state greater independence from the United Kingdom. For example, British ministers lost the right to formally advise the monarch in his capacity as 'King of Ireland', and the King granted the state its own Great Seal and began to sign treaties on behalf of the state.
Main article: Irish head of state from 1936-1949
From 1936 to 1949 the role of the King of Ireland in the Irish state was greatly reduced and ambiguous. An amendment to the Free State constitution in 1936 all but eliminated all of the King's official duties but one. Under the External Relations Act of the same year he continued to represent the Free State in international affairs. This purely external role continued when the new Constitution of Ireland was introduced in 1937.
The position of King of Ireland ceased to be with the passage of the Republic of Ireland Act, which came into force in April 1949. This act, as the name suggested, declared the state to be a republic. The Crown of Ireland Act was eventually repealed in the Republic of Ireland by the Statute Law Revision (Pre-Union Irish Statutes) Act, 1962.
List of Kings and Queens of Ireland
Last updated: 10-25-2005 22:12:44