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The Crown is one of the oldest institutions in the United Kingdom and remains a significant part of its constitution. Professor Robert Blackburn has described it as “fundamental to the law and working of government in the UK”.

It has, however, no single accepted definition. The term has been used to describe a physical object or as an alternative way of referring to the monarch in their personal or official capacity. At its most expansive, the Crown has been taken as a proxy for “the government” or what in other countries would be known as “the State”.

Concept of “the Crown”

The concept of the Crown developed first in England as a separation of the physical crown and property of the kingdom from the person and personal property of the monarch. As the kingdom merged with those in Scotland and Ireland, the concept extended to the legal lexicons of not only the United Kingdom but its dependencies and overseas territories, as well as several now independent Commonwealth Realms.

There are, as a result, many distinct Crowns – of Canada, Australia and other countries (realms) where King Charles III is head of state – all connected via the “personal union” of the current monarch, who succeeded to the throne in September 2022.

The terms “the sovereign” or “monarch” and “the Crown” are related but have separate meanings. The Crown encompasses both the monarch and the government. It is vested in the King, but in general its functions are exercised by Ministers of the Crown accountable to the UK Parliament or the three devolved legislatures.

Capacities of the Crown

After exploring differing interpretations of the Crown, this research briefing examines the laws relating to succession to the Crown in the UK. As much of the uncodified constitution of the United Kingdom flows from the Crown, this paper also looks at the Crown’s various capacities: parliamentary, executive, judicial, religious and international. This briefing also examines some of the continuing traditions with which the Crown is associated.

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The UK’s constitutional monarchy

Briefings on the Crown, its role in Parliament, the Commonwealth and the Overseas Territories, and the roles associated with the UK’s constitutional monarch.

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