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"The Crown" is also used to refer to state prosecution services: the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in Scotland and the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland.

The Crown is a corporation sole that in certain countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, as well as in any provincial or state sub-divisions thereof, represents the legal embodiment of executive government. It evolved naturally first in the United Kingdommarker as a separation of the literal crown and property of the nation state from the person and personal property of the monarch; a concept which then spread via British colonization and is now rooted in the legal lexicon of the other 15 independent realms. It is thus not to be confused with any physical crown, such as those in the Crown Jewelsmarker, which are the property of the Crown and not the reigning monarch.


The Crown in each of the Commonwealth realms is not a similar but separate legal concept.

Both Canada and Australia are federations: therefore, besides the Crown in Right of Canada and the Crown in Right of the Commonwealth of Australia, there are Crowns in Right of each Canadian province and each Australian state. For example, there is the Crown in Right of the Province of British Columbiamarker. The rights which the Crown possesses in right of a Canadian province are exercised by the province's lieutenant-governor (e.g., the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia), not the Governor-General of Canada, and such rights are exercised under the advice of the provincial ministers (not the federal ministers). The situation in Australia is analogous with governors and state ministers instead of the Canadian equivalents.


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 Englandmarker and (separately) Scotlandmarker, 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 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.

Exercise of the Rights of the Crown

In Commonwealth law, the expression "Crown in Right of ..." is often used: e.g., the Crown in Right of the United Kingdommarker, the Crown in Right of Canadamarker, the Crown in Right of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Crown in Right of the State of New South Walesmarker, etc.

In practice, the powers of the Crown outside the United Kingdom are rarely exercised by the Monarch directly, but rather by a local vice-regal representative such as a Governor-General, Governor, or Lieutenant Governor, on the advice of the ministers of the appropriate local (federal/national, state or provincial) government. In those few cases where the Monarch exercises powers directly, she again generally does so on the advice of the ministers of that government.

In the courts

In criminal proceedings, the prosecuting party is the Crown; generally speaking, this is indicated by having Rex (for a male monarch) or Regina (for a female one) v. the defendant as the standard for naming criminal trials. In Australia particularly, on official transcripts of criminal trials the heading page reads "(name of defendant) v. The Queen". Rex and Regina are typically abbreviated R , for example a criminal case against Smith might be R v Smith, read "The Crown against Smith". In New Zealand court reporting, news reports will refer to the prosecuting lawyer (often called a Crown prosecutor, as in 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 Statesmarker, where the format is ["the people" or "the State"] v. [the defendant] (e.g. People of the State of New York v. LaValle or State ex rel TLO) per popular sovereignty.

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, for example about the way judgments against the Crown can be enforced.

Powers of the Crown

The powers which belong to each Crown in right of a particular realm can only be exercised on the advice of the ministers of the realm. 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 possesses 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. This applies also to various governments of a federation, so the ministers of the Commonwealth of Australia may not advise Her Majesty in exercise of her rights in regard to the state of Victoria, for instance, in the appointment of a state Governor.

See also


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