On 31 January, following an Act of the Canadian Parliament, Mary Simon, the Governor-General of Canada, made an official change to the King’s title in Canada by proclaiming him:

Charles the Third, by the Grace of God King of Canada and His other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.

Previously, the Monarch’s title in Canada included references to “the United Kingdom” and “Defender of the Faith”, both of which have now been removed.

This is a reminder that the King is head of state not only in the UK but in 14 other Commonwealth Realms, countries which are independent from each other but share the same monarch. In each, King Charles III has a distinct title, albeit with common elements.

This Insight looks at the history and current form of what are known as the King’s style and titles.

Modern history of royal titles

In general terms, “title” refers to the position someone holds, for example “King of the United Kingdom”, while “style” concerns how they are described, for example “His Majesty”.

Proclamations issued under various Acts of Parliament changed the Monarch’s title to reflect changes in the UK’s territorial constitution, for example the unions between England and Scotland in 1707 and between Great Britain and Ireland in 1800. A proclamation issued in 1876 added “Empress of India” to Queen Victoria’s title, while in 1917 King George V relinquished his German titles, also via proclamation.

Until 1953, the Monarch had a single title throughout the then British Empire. As some parts of the Commonwealth (as it became known), such as Australia and Canada, gained greater autonomy, the Crown came to be regarded as “divisible”, in other words as a distinct entity in each of its realms.

The preamble to the Statute of Westminster 1931 therefore stated “that any alteration in the law touching the […] Royal Style and Titles shall hereafter require the assent as well of the Parliaments of all the Dominions as of the Parliament of the United Kingdom”.

In 1948, for example, the UK consulted those other parliaments before King George VI authorised a proclamation which removed “Emperor of India” from his style and titles. This followed the establishment of India and Pakistan as independent constitutional monarchies (both later became republics, in 1950 and 1956, respectively).

Royal titles in the modern Commonwealth

By 1949, when the modern Commonwealth was established, it was agreed by the Commonwealth Realms that each should have its own title for the Monarch. This was given statutory effect in the UK by the Royal Titles Act 1953, which authorised Queen Elizabeth II to alter her British style and titles by proclamation.

The preamble to the same Act stated that it was “expedient” that the Queen’s style and titles in her other realms:

should be altered so as to reflect more clearly the existing constitutional relations of the members of the Commonwealth to one another and their recognition of the Crown as the symbol of their free association and of the Sovereign as the Head of the Commonwealth.

At a meeting in London during December 1952, each Commonwealth Realm agreed to adopt “a form suiting its particular circumstances” while retaining “a substantial element common to all”. Today, those common elements are “His Other Realms and Territories” and “Head of the Commonwealth”.

After the 1952 meeting, each realm passed legislation altering the Queen’s style and titles in their jurisdiction. In some cases, these changed over time. For example, in 1973 Australia removed “United Kingdom” and “Defender of the Faith” from the Queen of Australia’s title.

The spreadsheet below gives the King’s present style and titles in each Commonwealth Realm.

Download spreadsheet of the King’s style and titles

The King’s UK style and titles

The King’s style and titles in the UK were proclaimed by Garter King of Arms  following his Accession Council on 10 September 2022. These are:

Charles the Third, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of His other Realms and Territories, King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

This form only applies in the UK, its 14 Overseas Territories and in the three Crown Dependencies, which the UK considers to form “one undivided Realm”.

It is worth noting that the Crown Dependencies do not necessarily agree with this interpretation. For example, the Succession to the Crown (Jersey) Law 2013 referred to Queen Elizabeth II as “Sovereign of the Bailiwick of Jersey, such Realm being anciently part of the Duchy of Normandy”.

In September 2022, the Isle of Man also proclaimed King Charles III as, among other things, “Lord of Mann”, although this does not have any statutory basis.

About the author: Dr David Torrance is the monarchy specialist at the House of Commons Library

This image may be used with acknowledgment: Copyright House of Lords 2022 / Photography by Annabel Moeller

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