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What does ‘The Crown’ even mean?

‘The Crown’ is said to be a term synonymous with the monarch, a term used in legal situations and by monarchists. But what does it actually mean, and why has something inanimate and useful as a form of royal headdress been taken to mean the sovereign of the country.

The first thing to mention is what actually is the crown. Not the physical crown, the metaphorical crown. The crown is a legal term used to describe the monarch as head of state; the position of monarch is synonymous with the crown. The two are not separable and cannot be used to mean different people. The crown refers to the sovereign of a particular state.

Believe it or not, The Queen holds 16 (probably more, if you include the crown of Scotland &c.) metaphorical crowns. It is a common misconception that countries other than the UK which Her Majesty is head of are attached to the UK and therefore only count as one crown, in fact, The Queen is technically head of the 16 Commonwealth Realms separately, this means even if the UK were to abolish its monarchy, The Queen would still be head of 15 other countries.

‘The Crown’ as a term is considered to represent the legal position of The Queen as head of state rather than her personally or an individual.

Unlike individual monarchs, the term ‘The Crown’ can be used to describe the current reigning monarch and because of the way the British Monarchy works, the Crown can never die (as the new monarch immediately succeeds to the Crown upon the demise of the previous).

In Britain, and other Commonwealth Realms, the term ‘The Crown’ is also used in criminal courts where a person is being tried against the state, or more specifically, the embodiment of the state… ‘The Crown’. For example, a case may be referred to as ‘The Crown vs Mr Smith’.

Lands owned by The Queen as head of state are managed by an organisation called ‘The Crown Estate’, lands which aren’t owned privately by Her Majesty are ‘Crown Property’, property of the reigning monarch (whomever that may be) in trust for the nation.

The term is a very useful one in the British constitution, because as explained it describes the reigning Monarch, whereas the term ‘Sovereign’ or ‘Monarch’ could refer to a specific person and, in law, cause confusion and ambiguity which may have, in 1936 in particular, resulted in King Edward VIII keeping the likes of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle as personal property.

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