The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






The Crown

For usages of The Crown in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, see Crown of the Polish Kingdom. For the venue in Cincinnati, Ohio, see U.S. Bank Arena. For other general usages, see Crown.

The Crown is a term which is used to separate the government authority and property of the state in a kingdom from any personal influence and private assets held by the current Monarch.

In the United Kingdom, as an example, The Crown is an entity that represents all rulership in the U.K., but is separate from the person currently wearing it. For instance, the Queen owns some of her castles herself, and if she abdicated, she would keep them. Others belong to the Crown, and would belong to the next monarch. This is the same situation for The Crown in the other Commonwealth Realms.

The Crown is therefore a corporation sole, a legal entity which can own property and have rights. In the U.K. Elizabeth II is currently the post holder, and thus Queen of the United Kingdom. The holder of the position of the Crown will be King or Queen and officially governs the U.K. In practice, however, the U.K. is usually governed by the government derived from the democratically elected parliament, but this is only done 'on behalf of the Crown' and laws are passed by the Crown in Parliament, with Royal assent.

Many people in the United Kingdom are Crown Servants. For instance, traditionally, prison warders and police officers were directly employed by the Crown, and not by the Prison Service or Police Authorities. The Crown is also the source of all justice in the U.K. (which is why there is the Crown Prosecution Service in the criminal courts whose lawyers are called Crown Prosecutors), which also meant that it was immune from prosecution. Those working within the intelligence services such as Mi5 and Mi6 are also Crown Servants. Thus all Government departments were essentially immune from prosecution, an immunity which was limited slightly by the Crown Proceedings Act of 1947. Crown servants may not sit as Members of Parliament and this is used as a way of allowing MPs to retire before their time—they are awarded a sinecure job which is that of a Crown Servant and thus disbarred as an MP (see resignation from the British House of Commons).

The concept of the Crown took form under the feudal system, evolving from and synthesising oriental and barbarian concepts of kingship. Under the feudal System, in England and (separately) Scotland, all rights and privileges were ultimately granted by the ruler (though this was not the case in all countries that had this system). All land was granted by the Crown to lesser lords, in exchange for feudal services, and they 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.

Again, most of these principals are similar in the other Commonwealth Realms which share the Crown along with the U.K.

Crown in Right of ...

In Commonwealth law, the expression is often used of "Crown in right of ...", for example, the Crown in right of the United Kingdom, the Crown in right of Canada, the Crown in right of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, etc.

The distinction is that the powers which belong to the Crown in right of a particular dominion can only be exercised on the advice of the ministers of the dominion. So, for example, the rights which the Crown possesses in right of the United Kingdom can only be exercised under the advice of British ministers, and the rights which the Crown possess in right of Canada can only be exercised under the advice of Canadian ministers. The British Prime Minister cannot advise Her Majesty in exercise of her rights in regard to Canada, nor can the Canadian Prime Minister advise her in exercise of her rights in regard to the United Kingdom.

In practice, in the vast majority of cases, the powers of the Crown outside the United Kingdom are not exercised by the Monarch personally, but rather by a Governor-General, Governor or Lieutenant-Governor (as the case may be), on the advice of the ministers of the local Federal/National, State or Provincial government. However, in those few cases where the Monarch exercises these powers directly, she does so on the advice of the ministers of that government.

The Monarch, or her appointed representative, has the right to refuse the advice of ministers, and act instead in accordance with their personal views. However, these "reserve powers" are almost never used, outside of times of constitutional crisis.

See also

Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13