A History of the Royal Style and Titles
A HISTORY OF THE ROYAL STYLE AND TITLES
(Originally prepared in May, 2003, in observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the assumption by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of a distinctive title in Canada and in her other realms, and delivered at meetings of the Toronto Branch of the Monarchist League of Canada, this essay was revised in 2013 in observance of the sixtieth anniversary of the assumption of those titles. The author offers thanks to Dr John McLeod, Professor of History in the University of Louisville, who read the penultimate draft of this essay, found many of the hitherto unnoticed typographical errors, and pointed out and offered solutions to several other serious historical problems.)
When Germanic tribal chieftains invaded the Roman Empire in general and, among them, Anglo-Saxon tribal chieftains invaded Roman Britain in particular, and, finally settling down in specific geographical areas, became kings, as we understand the term in European-Canadian history, they had no source from which to draw the symbolic attributes, like regalia and titles, of their kingship except the Roman Empire. They could not claim imperial rule, since they realised that they had no claim to universal dominion, although, given about twelve hundred years and the development of the concept of sovereignty, that is, that an independent monarch is subject to no outside earthly authority and that his domain is therefore an empire, as Henry VIII stated it, the kings of developing dynastic or nation states did begin to parallel their position to that of the continuing Holy Roman Emperor. In the meantime, however, they styled themselves merely rex, ruler or king, the title that Romans themselves had abhorred since their quasi-legendary expulsion of their own kings, although the Greeks, calling a spade a spade, had always called the Roman Emperor, who ruled over them, basileus, their word for king (see, for example, the many references to the Roman Emperor in the New Testament — “fear God, honour the king”, 1 Peter 2.17).
Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of Canada, whose royal style and titles we trace in this essay, is descended from these Anglo-Saxon chieftains by way of the marriage of one of their descendants, a daughter of Henry VII, into the royal house of Scotland, followed by the inheritance by a subsequent King of Scotland, James VI, of the Kingdom of England (1603). The joining of those two kingdoms eventually produced the Kingdom of Great Britain (1707), and the previous elevation of Ireland to the status of a kingdom (1541) and its subsequent joining with Great Britain produced the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801). It is the spread of the peoples of this united British kingdom throughout the world as colonists (which is simply a Latin-derived word for settlers) that produced the great British-descended kingdoms of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. And the spread of these peoples, as administrators, resulted in the dozen other smaller kingdoms, not of British ethnic origin, which now also claim Queen Elizabeth II as their monarch. And it is all these developments, plus others, that determined the development of the titles by which our Queen and her predecessors have been variously styled through history.
The kings of the north of Britain, or Caledonia, as the Romans called it, or Scotia (in Latin) or Scotland (in English), as it eventually came to be known after the spread of the Scots in the sixth century from northern Ireland, were variously known simply as Kings of Alba, Kings of the Picts and Scots, Kings of the Scots, or Kings of Scotland. But since on his succession to the throne of England in 1603 by virtue of his descent from Henry VII (all subsequent Tudors having become extinct), James VI, King of Scotland, now also James I, King of England, entered upon the inheritance of that succession of English dynasties that began with those Anglo-Saxon chieftains whom we have just mentioned, it is with them that we must begin our exploration of the Royal Style and Titles as it has come down to us today.
Once the Anglo-Saxon chieftaincies, or the little kingdoms eventually known collectively as the Heptarchy (the ”Seven Rulerships”), became one kingdom in the course of the ninth century, the titles borne by the king of this united England varied according to the whim of the king or the imagination of his propagandists. Once various possibilities, like King of the Saxons or King of the Anglo-Saxons, had been superseded, the fundamental title became, in Latin of course, Rex Anglorum, King of the Angles, or, as we should now say, King of the English. There were sometimes attempts at more elaborate titles, found on coins or charters, like King of Britain or King of All Albion. Significant also were the occasional uses of imperator, the Latin term now signifying “emperor”, and indeed the Greek title basileus, “king”. Although a closer approximation of imperator, that is, autokrator, “autocrat” or “self-ruler”, was later devised for more formal usage, basileus, as we observed, was the term which had always been used in Greek for the Roman Emperor and which, interestingly enough because of its contemporaneity, was the only title, not autokrator, which the Eastern Roman Emperor in Constantinople had been prepared to concede to Charlemagne, who styled himself Emperor in the West at the beginning of this same ninth century. The use of these titles beyond rex or “king” seems to be an indication that the Anglo-Saxon kings had already developed something of that imperial sense of sovereignty. Indeed, St Edward the Confessor himself, who died at the beginning of 1066, along with Harold Godwinesson and Edgar the Atheling, the last Anglo-Saxon kings, styled himself not only King of the English but occasionally, as on his seal, Basileus of the English.
William, Duke of the Normans, who had been promised the Kingdom of England on the death of Edward and backed up that claim by force in 1066, simply inherited the usage of his predecessors, except that that occasional use of basileus was abandoned (possibly because William was personally feudatory to the King of France and therefore could not claim imperial, that is, sovereign, status?). It was his son, William II, 1087 to 1100, who added, almost casually, “Dei gratia”, “by the grace of God”, after his name and before his title on his great seal. (How that phrase should be punctuated and how it should be understood is a topic to which we shall come later on in this essay.) Written documents, however, did not use it consistently until 1172, in the reign of Henry II. In the meantime, Henry I, 1100 to 1135, occasionally replaced “King of the English” with “King of England”, although “by the grace of God, King of the English and Duke of the Normans” remained standard through the reign of Stephen, 1135 to 1154, until Henry II, 1154 to 1189, became by virtue of his paternal descent and then his marriage, “by the grace of God, King of the English and Duke of the Normans and Aquitainians and Count of the Angevins”, the title also used by Richard I, 1189 to 1199.
King John, who not without dispute succeeded his brother Richard I in 1199, had a very complicated and very conflict-filled reign. His father, Henry II, had claimed, traditionally on the basis of a grant in 1155 by Pope Adrian IV, the only English Roman Pontiff, the lordship over Ireland. Certainly Pope Alexander III had granted Henry the actual title, “Lord of Ireland” in 1172. This title Henry had passed on to his son John in connexion with John’s viceroyalty in Ireland in 1185. The title was confirmed to him by his brother, Richard I, and retained once he was king, thereby becoming attached again to the Crown or, as we should now say, merged in the Crown. That is, the King of England was henceforth Lord of Ireland. John also finally exchanged the names of the peoples whom he ruled for the names of their countries, becoming “by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou”.
In 1259 Henry III (the king with that colossal reign, who succeeded King John in 1216 and reigned until 1272) surrendered several of his French possessions (as we know, all that remain to the Crown today of the Duchy of Normandy are the Channel Islands) and became “by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine”, a title that remained for close to the next eighty years through the reigns of Edward I, 1272 to 1307, and Edward II, 1307 to 1327.
Edward III, who had another long reign from 1327 to 1377, on the other hand, because of his descent from Philip IV of France, dropped the title of Duke of Aquitaine and in its place claimed and sometimes used the title “King of France” from 1337, renounced it in 1360, and took it up again in 1369. His grandson and successor, therefore, Richard II, 1377 to 1399, was styled “by the grace of God, King of England and France and Lord of Ireland”, a title that in its turn remained stable for the next one hundred thirty years, that is, through the reigns of Henry IV, 1399 to 1413, Henry V, 1413 to 1422 (with a brief reversion in 1420 to “Heir and Regent of France” rather than King), Henry VI, 1422 to 1461, Edward IV, 1461 to 1483, Edward V, 1483, Richard III, 1483 to 1485, and Henry VII, 1485 to 1509, that is, through all the following Shakespearian vicissitudes of the Crown (both in who held it or fought to hold it and whatever the extent of its dominion in France) until the midst of the reign of Henry VIII.
Henry VIII, who became king in 1509 and reigned until 1547, was the sovereign who began the use of the epithet “Majesty” (“Greatness” in Latin). The first alteration to his actual title, however, was, like most of the following ones, the result of events in religion. In October of 1521, as a reluctant reward for Henry’s essay, “An Assertion of the Seven Sacraments against Martin Luther”, Pope Leo X, after much negotiation over what form an additional title should take, granted him the designation “Fidei Defensor”, “Defender of the Faith”. Henry thus became “by the grace of God, King of England and France, Defender of the Faith, and Lord of Ireland” (the Pope having specified that the new title should go right after “King”, the Lordship of Ireland, therefore, having to follow).
The convolutions of the English Reformation, brought about by Henry’s desire to annul his marriage for dynastic reasons, brought several swift changes to the royal title. And for the first time, Parliament was now involved in determining what the King’s title should be. In November of 1534 by the Act of Supremacy, the Parliament of England enacted that the King should be “taken, accepted, and reputed the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England”, the Anglicana Ecclesia, as it specified in Latin, alluding to its description in Magna Carta. Notice that Parliament does not actually make the King head of the Church, but assumes that the position has somehow come from elsewhere and merely declares it. On the basis of this act, Henry, in January of 1535, was proclaimed “by the grace of God, King of England and France, Defender of the Faith, Lord of Ireland, and of the Church of England in Earth Supreme Head”. This title lasted only until sometime in the last quarter of 1536, when the Parliament of Ireland, enacting that Henry should also be Head of the Church of Ireland, caused the King to alter his title to “by the grace of God, King of England and France, Defender of the Faith, Lord of Ireland, and of the Church of England and also of Ireland in Earth Supreme Head”. And the last change in Henry’s title took place on 23 February, 1542, when, after the Parliament of Ireland also enacted in June of 1541 that the King and his successors be Kings (rather than merely Lords) of Ireland, Henry was proclaimed “by the grace of God, King of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and of the Church of England and also of Ireland in Earth Supreme Head”. After that Act of Supremacy of 1534, Pope Paul III had, not unnaturally, withdrawn the title “Defender of the Faith”, but Henry paid no heed to that — or did he? Just to be sure, he had the Parliament of England confirm the title to him by an act of 1543.
Although these were the royal style and titles therefore inherited by Edward VI, 1547 to 1553, used by the usurper Jane, 1553, and inherited by Mary I, 1553 to 1558, for some reason, Edward, in the Latin version of his title began to put “Rex”, “King”, after the name of his kingdoms, that is, “by the grace of God, of England, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, and on earth of the English and of the Irish Church Supreme Head”. (This change, ironically (or was it on purpose?), made the King’s title in Latin adhere even more closely to Pope Leo X’s original requirement that the title “King” should be followed immediately by the title “Defender of the Faith”.) No parallel change, however, was made to the title in the English language — yet.
Mary I, having come to the throne with this title, ceased, however, by April of 1554, and without parliamentary approval, to style herself Supreme Head of the Church of England and of Ireland, and in July of 1554 she married the widowed Philip (as the second of his eventual five wives), Prince of Spain and son of Charles V, the King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. After the previous involvement of Parliament in the royal title, it is interesting to observe that suddenly Parliament passed no legislation but only gave its opinion about the remarkable and potentially politically permanent changes that might have been brought to the Kingdom of England by this marriage, but these changes were to do with the conduct of foreign affairs, which even today is the perquisite of the Crown and not of Parliament. What legal means then brought about these remarkable changes? It was the treaty of marriage, approved in a resolution by Parliament, by which the Queen granted to her new husband the title of King (that is, a king matrimonial, whose kingship depended entirely on the queenship of his wife). Though Mary, with authentic Christian piety, now placed her husband’s name before her own in all official documents, Philip was in fact to have no power or function in the government of England, any offspring of the marriage was to inherit not Philip’s eventual kingdom of Spain, which was reserved for Philip’s younger brother, but only, in addition to England itself, of course, the Spanish Netherlands and Burgundy, and in the event that Mary predeceased her husband, as the event proved, Philip was to cease being King of England. As a wedding present to his son, the Emperor Charles picked among his dominions for one from which to abdicate, and gave Philip the Kingdom of Naples, to which at this point was also attached the now empty title (derived from the Crusades) of King of Jerusalem, thus making him a king in his own right. The new title thus assumed by Philip and Mary at their marriage on 25 July, 1554, was “by the grace of God, King and Queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem, and Ireland; Defenders of the Faith; Princes of Spain and Sicily; Archdukes of Austria; Dukes of Milan, Burgundy, and Brabant; Counts of Hapsburg, Flanders, and Tyrol”. In January of 1555 Parliament passed an act, according to the Queen’s desire, to abolish the royal supremacy over the Church and hence the title. The legislative draughtsmen were careful to make sure that the act indemnified both Queen and people either from having used a sacrilegious title before it was abolished or from not having used a legal title before it was abolished, so we see that Parliament is now again intimately involved in providing a legal foundation for the Sovereign’s title.
Next, Charles V’s step-by-step abdications from the thrones of his various dominions (which formed, as we might observe, a remarkable parallel to our Queen’s present realms in the Commonwealth, because all these kingdoms and principalities were quite independent of one another and linked only by their common sovereign) made his son Philip successively monarch of more territories. Charles abdicated Burgundy in October, 1555, and Spain and Sicily in January, 1556. Her husband’s developing titles of course then altered Queen Mary’s titles without any further proclamation in England, so that by the end of this process, Philip and Mary were “by the grace of God, King and Queen of England, Spain, France, Jerusalem, both the Sicilies [the new title for the island of Sicily and the previous Naples], and Ireland; Defenders of the Faith; Archdukes of Austria; Dukes of Burgundy, Milan, and Brabant; Counts of Hapsburg, Flanders, and Tyrol”. The former Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, as we know, was in fact at this time part of the Ottoman Empire, and the English Crown’s last claim to the Kingdom of France, the port of Calais, was lost to Queen Mary, to her great grief, in January of 1558, precisely because she was pulled into war against France (and, ironically, against the Pope) on the side of her husband’s Spain, and all the more ironically because her husband had now abandoned her to attend to his realms on the Continent.
The death of Mary I in November of 1558 brought her half-sister, Elizabeth I, to the throne. She of course shared none of her brother-in-law’s realms and was proclaimed in the style of Edward VI, but with one tiny addition, as “Elizabeth by the grace of God, Queen of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc.” Was this “etc.” the harbinger of a restoration of the title of Head of the Church? Elizabeth’s first Parliament did indeed enact a new Act of Supremacy in April of 1559, which did not actually grant or approve any new title for the Queen, but instituted an oath to be taken by all officeholders, ecclesiastical and lay, “that the Queen’s Highness is the only supreme governor of this realm, and of all other her Highness’s dominions and countries, as well in all spiritual or ecclesiastical things or causes, as temporal”. That was the situation as set out by the law, that the Queen was “supreme governor” both religious and temporal, but no proclamation of any new title followed upon it.
Elizabeth I’s long reign came to an end in March of 1603. Never having married, she had no children. Her closest heir had been Mary, Queen of Scots, the great-granddaughter of Henry VII and the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Margaret by her marriage to King James IV of Scotland. Elizabeth had executed Mary in 1587 for being involved in plots to succeed her prematurely, but at Mary’s abdication in 1567 she had already been succeeded to the Crown of Scotland by her son, James VI, who now succeeded Elizabeth, his first cousin, twice removed, to the Crown of England. If the English monarch had claimed three crowns up to now (one of which was merely for show), the new King, James VI of Scotland and now the first to bear that name of England, had four, and was styled “by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc.”
King James VI (and I) left his court at Edinburgh, travelled immediately to London, and spent the rest of his reign there until 1625 (reigning 57 years in total, a fact sometimes forgotten when it is reckoned which of our monarchs have surpassed 50 years). Indeed, James was mightily impressed with acquiring England, not to speak of Ireland and that claim to France; he not only made additions to his royal arms to represent these acquisitions, but he also by proclamation in 1606 combined the battle flag of the kings of England, the cross of St George, with the battle flag of the kings of Scotland, the cross of St Andrew, into the first Union Flag, intended to mark out the King’s property and, in specified circumstances, the King’s subjects. There may be remembered in that proclamation James’s reference to his subjects of “South Britain” and his subjects of “North Britain”. He obviously wanted to think of England and Scotland as in some sense one kingdom, though they certainly were not that, but were two quite separate kingdoms having in common only a shared sovereign, again, in some sense like the realms of the modern Commonwealth. However, in pursuit of this pan-British ideal, even before he devised the Union Flag, by a proclamation in England in October of 1604 and in Scotland in November (it obviously took some time for messengers to ride north), he assumed to himself the title of “King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc.” The Parliament of Scotland accepted this new title, but judges in England offered objections that prevented the Parliament of England from acquiescing in its official adoption, so that while it came into common use during the next hundred years, in both Latin and English, on coins and the great seals of James and succeeding monarchs of his Stuart dynasty, it was never officially adopted as the legally correct title.
This same situation continued through the reigns of Charles I, 1625 to 1649, Charles II, officially 1649 to 1685, and James VII and II, 1685 to 1688 or 1689 (depending on whether one regards his reign as having ended with an abdication and his flight or with his defeat in battle). It might be observed parenthetically, however, that when the Protectorate had been established in 1653, Oliver Cromwell was styled “Oliver (just his Christian name) by the grace of God (this in Latin only), Lord Protector (just “Protector” in Latin) of the Commonwealth (Res publica in Latin) of England, Scotland, and Ireland (Scotland and Ireland having been annexed to England as Henry VIII had annexed Wales)”, and sometimes with the addition in English of “and of the Dominions and Territories thereunto belonging”. That, and we are sorry to observe that it does not occur with one of our monarchs, is the first mention in the history of the actual title of the ruler of Britain (as opposed to that mention by Parliament when enacting merely the supreme governorship of Elizabeth I) of territory beyond the British homeland.
At the complex and disputed so-called abdication, certainly deposition, and finally military defeat of James VII and II, the Crown of England (along therefore with putative France and with Ireland) and the Crown of Scotland were offered, separately, in February and May of 1689, to a grandson of Charles I, William, Prince of Orange and Stadholder General of the United Netherlands; offered, that is, by virtue of his marriage to Mary, the daughter and heir of King James (if his newly-born son were conveniently forgotten), to whom, since she had the better claim, the two Crowns were also offered, creating a situation different from that of Philip and Mary, by which William III and Mary II were sovereigns together but independently. From 13 February, 1689, William III was “by the grace of God, King of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc.”, while Mary II had the same title, substituting “Queen”. Unlike Philip and Mary I, they did not share their titles except, necessarily, in documents like royal charters. The Convention Parliament of England had declared that James II had “abdicated” the government, thus making way for William and Mary; the Estates of Scotland declared that James VII had “forfeited” the government. On this latter declaration in April, which reached London and was accepted by William and Mary on 11 May, the King and Queen added Scotland to their titles, in the usual place. Queen Mary II died in 1694 to leave King William III to continue his reign.
In 1701, the Act of Settlement, in the absence of heirs to Queen Mary, the unlikelihood that King William would marry again and produce heirs, and the death of all the children of the next heir, the Princess Anne, the younger daughter of James VII and II and married to Prince George of Denmark, provided that the succession should be restricted to Protestants and, in order to bypass Catholic heirs of James VII and II, had to go back to a descendant of James VI and I, the wife of the Elector of Hanover, Sophia, daughter of James VI and I’s daughter, Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia. In 1702, however, William III died and was succeeded by that other daughter of James VII and II, Anne, the sister of Mary II, who assumed the usual title, “by the grace of God, Queen of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc.” but, as usual, replaced the reference to England and Scotland on coins and her great seal with “Great Britain”. On 1 May, 1707, that which monarchs had desired for over a hundred years since James VI and I, and what Anne, following William, had also urged, England and Scotland, by the vote of their respective parliaments, were united into one Kingdom of Great Britain with one parliament, and Anne, finally and consequent upon the Act of Union, became “by the grace of God, Queen of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc.”
On Queen Anne’s death in 1714, the provision of the Act of Settlement came into effect, and since Sophia, by now Dowager Electress of Hanover, had died two months before the Queen, Anne was succeeded by Sophia’s son, Georg, or George, as he is called in English, now Elector of Hanover, that is, ruler of a German state possessing the authority (there were seven of them: princes and bishops) to elect the Holy Roman Emperor. Hanover was the capital of George’s German possessions, and so, while there were also other princes who shared the title which he in fact used when he became King of Great Britain and Ireland, the title that was actually added to his British title was “Duke of Brunswick and Luneburg” (the English version of Braunschweig und Lüneburg). Whereas with Philip and Mary I we had had two monarchs sharing one set of titles, and with William III and Mary II we had had two co-monarchs each with his or her own title, we now have one monarch with two completely separate sets of titles, “George by the grace of God, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc., Duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg, Archtreasurer and Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire”. These were the titles also borne by George II, 1727 to 1760, and by George III, for the first part of his reign from 1760.
The French Revolution and the war in which Britain was consequently involved with France played a part in the next changes to the King’s title. By consequence of a British occupation of Corsica during the Revolution, George III became from 1794 to 1796 King of Corsica (there was never opportunity to add or to remove this title from the official formula). The French Revolution was to produce yet another change to the King’s title, but more important than developments in France was the union of the Kingdom of Ireland (the independence of whose parliament had been established only in 1782) with the Kingdom of Great Britain into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, effective 1 January, 1801, and accompanied by a new Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland provides in its first article “that the royal stile [sic] and titles appertaining to the imperial [that is, independent and sovereign] crown of the said United Kingdom and its dependencies…shall be such as his Majesty, by his royal proclamation under the great seal of the United Kingdom shall be pleased to appoint”. We see here yet another development in the involvement of Parliament with the King’s title. Previously, parliaments had created positions for the King or Queen to hold (like the elevation of Ireland to a kingdom), or had declared that the King or Queen held a position (like Supreme Head of the Church), and on the basis of these enactments Kings and Queens had proclaimed titles for themselves. Now Parliament was specifically authorising the King to adopt a title, any title at all that he pleased, to be sure, but the authorisation for adopting that title had now passed, almost imperceptibly, from the royal prerogative to statute law. (It should be made clear that the King, of course, is part of Parliament and that he is technically, in Parliament, authorising himself to assume a title, but the transition from action based purely on the prerogative to action resting on statutory, that is, parliamentary, authority should be noted.)
This establishment of the United Kingdom obviously provided the opportunity for a serious reconsideration of the royal style and titles. The British king had had no territorial basis for his title, “King of France”, since 1558, but the British government were apparently more influenced by the desire of the French revolutionaries, who, having done away with kingship in France, were concerned that the British king not continue any claim, however ancient in history, to a title or position which they had abolished. Consequently, in the new royal style and titles, proclaimed by George III, to come into effect 1 January, 1801, the ancient claim to France was foregone. (Interestingly, the fleurs-de-lys were nevertheless not removed from the circlet of St Edward’s Crown (the Coronation crown), nor have they ever been removed from any subsequent state crown (the current one having first been made for Queen Victoria). King George IV, however, did have made in 1820 a state diadem in which the place of the fleurs-de-lys was taken by bouquets of roses, thistles, and shamrocks. This diadem was subsequently worn by Queen Victoria and has since been passed down to successive queens and is today worn on state occasions in England by Queen Elizabeth II. In addition, in the rebuilding of the present Palace of Westminster, starting in 1840, the architect Sir Charles Barry, assisted by Augustus Welby Pugin, retained fleurs-de-lys, along with roses, thistles, and shamrocks, in the enormous stone adornments of the walls of the palace.) But there were two other developments on the adoption of the new title of 1801, one unprecedented. First, for some reason the practice in Latin of placing the title “Rex”, “King”, after rather than before the names of the kingdoms over which the King reigned, a practice first begun, as we noted, by Edward VI in 1547, was now adopted in English also. George III became “by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith”. And the “etc.” of Elizabeth I, which had trundled along for almost two hundred fifty years, was now dropped, and the new British title continued to be followed by “Duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg, Archtreasurer and Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire”.
The unprecedented development was that the English and Latin versions of the titles were, now for the first time, not translations of one another. George III was styled in Latin simply, “Dei gratia, Britanniarum Rex, Fidei Defensor”, that is, “by the grace of God, of the Britains King, Defender of the Faith”. It had been decided not even to try to translate “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland” back into Latin (perhaps an odd development, when one considers that first the title “Rex” and now the title “King” had been put in a Latinate rather than English position) but, taking up the usage by which the Romans had described Britain at the end of the Roman Empire, when the original province of Britain had been divided into at first two, then four, and finally five provinces, forming “Britanniae”, “the Britains”, one of the dioceses of the later Roman Empire, the legal draughtsmen simply made use of this plural (even though the Roman “Britains” had never included Scotland and Ireland) to describe the new United Kingdom in Latin. This expedient certainly served, and perhaps was intended, to provide a manageable title which would fit on coins and medals.
By 1811, George III had lapsed into permanent dementia and his regal responsibilities were assumed by his son the Prince of Wales as Prince Regent. But the reorganisation of Europe begun by the French Revolution resulted in more changes to the King’s titles. The dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, and the Congress of Vienna after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, resulted in the elevation of the King’s German possessions to a kingdom, so that from 1814, the references to the Holy Roman Empire were removed and the title “King of Hanover” was inserted between George III’s British titles and his Dukedoms of Brunswick and Lüneburg. It was with these titles, “by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, King of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg”, that both the Prince Regent, who became George IV from 1820 to 1830, and William IV, 1830 to 1837, reigned.
It is well known that the Salic Law, by which succession was determined in Hanover, did not permit women to assume sovereignty. Therefore at the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, the Kingdom of Hanover passed to Queen Victoria’s next surviving uncle, Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, and Victoria herself became simply “by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith”.
In 1858, the British Government took over the government of those parts of India which had hitherto been governed independently (“in trust for the Queen”, as the language went) by the East India Company (rather in the manner in which the Hudson’s Bay Company was still governing the North-West of British North America). Rulers of those portions of India which did not thereby fall under the direct government of the United Kingdom nevertheless had various kinds of agreements with the Crown of the United Kingdom. Queen Victoria’s view was that since she was now personally the Sovereign of British India and the suzerain of the rest of India, which was full of maharajahs and rajahs, that is, great kings and kings, she needed a rank and a title which would exalt her over all of them and give her, on the international level, an eminence equal to that of the Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, the Hereditary Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary, and the newly established (in 1871) German Emperor. Benjamin Disraeli became the Queen’s prime minister for the second time in 1874 and was the instrument to accomplish his Sovereign’s will, even in the face of considerable opposition. A Royal Titles Act (notice its careful name) was introduced in Parliament in March of 1876. It enacted that the transfer of the government of India to the Queen should be recognised by an addition to the title appertaining to the Imperial Crown of the United Kingdom and its Dependencies, and authorised Her Majesty to assume whatever additional title seemed appropriate to her. Once again, Parliament does not confer a title upon the Sovereign but declares its assent in advance to whatever the Sovereign determines to do. Everyone knew exactly what was intended by the obscure terms of the Act and those who opposed that intention were regarded by the Queen as “factious and unpatriotic”. The Act received the Royal Assent on 27 April, 1876, and on 28 April, the Queen issued a proclamation assuming to herself the additional title “Indiae Imperatrix”, “Empress of India”. Published in London on 1 May, the new title was proclaimed in India, with the additional translation into Persian and Urdu of “Kaisar-i-Hind”, only on 1 January, 1877, at a great durbar on a plain outside Delhi, the former Mogul capital. But the proclamation made an interesting exception, apparently in response to that hostility in Britain to the idea that the British monarch, a king or queen from time immemorial, should assume the rank of an emperor, a title associated with autocracy and supposedly ill-suited to the proud boast of British freedom. It specifically said that though the title was attached to the Imperial Crown of the United Kingdom and its Dependencies, it was not to be used in documents, like charters or appointments or letters patent, which did not extend in their operation beyond the United Kingdom. Indeed, it was not used, for example, in parliamentary papers of the United Kingdom or in such an important imperial document as the proclamation (1900) of the Commonwealth of Australia. So in a way, the situation to be created in 1953, when Queen Elizabeth II would acquire a different title in each of her realms, was foreshadowed in the creation of a title for use outside the United Kingdom alongside a title for use exclusively within that kingdom.
The immense size of the British Empire and the intense pride of its inhabitants in its extent and in their membership of it as subjects of the Queen resulted in many popular but unofficial attempts to expand the title of the “Most Gracious Sovereign of this and all other portions of Her extended realm”, as the legislators of British Columbia, debating in 1870 union with Canada, described her. Before Australian federation, the Parliament of Victoria would refer to their monarch as Queen of Australasia and of this Colony of Victoria (and in loyal years more recently continued to describe Queen Elizabeth II as Queen “of this State of Victoria”). Indeed, a significant official attempt to expand the Queen’s title before her assumption of the title of Empress of India took place as early as 1858, when, on the assumption of direct British rule over those portions of India previously governed by the East India Company, the Queen in her royal proclamation was actually styled, “Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the Colonies and Dependencies thereof in Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australasia, Queen, Defender of the Faith”. This widespread desire that the far-flung lands of the Empire should be represented in the royal title finally bore fruit at the accession of Edward VII, 1901 to 1910.
Although the desire of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, that the King should actually be styled King of Canada, was not acted upon (although the additional Canadian suggestion that the term “British Dominions” be used was), an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, assented to on 17 August, 1901, authorised the King, “with a view to the recognition of His Majesty’s dominions beyond the seas”, to make such addition to the title pertaining to the Imperial Crown of the United Kingdom and its Dependencies as, again, he saw fit. Accordingly by a proclamation on 4 November, 1901, Edward VII became in Latin “Dei Gratia Britanniarum et terrarum transmarinarum quae in ditione sunt Britannica [of the Britains and of the lands across the seas which are in the British dominion] Rex, Fidei Defensor, Indiae Imperator” and in English, much more appealingly, “by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India”. No longer was there attached any restriction on the use of the imperial Indian title, and it began to be used in almost all circumstances of the use of the King’s title. On coins and medals, however, because this addition, “et transmarinarum quae in ditione sunt Britannica”, lengthened the King’s title far beyond what could be physically fitted around a coin or medal’s edge, it was replaced and represented by the simple but felicitous addition of “omnium” to “Britanniarum”. That is, just as “Britanniarum”, “of the Britains”, had been devised as a means to render expeditiously “of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”, so now, “Britanniarum omnium”, “of all the Britains” stood in for “of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas”. This clever, indeed remarkable, expedient was usually rendered in the abbreviated form “Britt. omn.” (the double “t” being not a misspelling of “Britanniarum”, but the Latin convention of indicating a plural in an abbreviation by doubling the last included letter) and remained in use until the large scale alteration to the Royal Style and Titles that took place at the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The full title and the coin-medal substitute were inherited by King George V in 1910.
The establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 as a Dominion (it was expressly likened to Canada) outside the United Kingdom, however, meant that, as before 1801, the King’s title again did not correspond to constitutional reality. Therefore the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act, assented to on 12 April, 1927, changed the official name of the British Parliament itself (formerly of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) to the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (but continued the numbering of parliaments from 1801), and again authorised the King to assume any title which he saw fit. Rather than adopting the title used by the British Parliament, the solution this time was to return to the terminology in use before the Union of 1801, that is, to remove altogether reference to the United Kingdom as such and style the King monarch of Great Britain and Ireland separately. The Royal Title did not therefore conform to the actual political arrangement by which the Irish Free State was an independent country and Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom, but it did express the reality that the King was King of Ireland in one capacity or the other, either as King of the United Kingdom or as King of the Irish Free State. Some have seen in the formula not so much the return to the pre-nineteenth-century practice but a foreshadowing of the twentieth-century practice, whereby the Queen’s non-United Kingdom realms would be mentioned by name, at least in those realms. By proclamation on 13 May, 1927, King George V became “by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India”. “Britanniarum” (“of the Britains”) was also replaced in the Latin form with “Magnae Britanniae, Hiberniae” (“of Great Britain, Ireland”). But the continued use in Latin, for example on coins of Britain and Australia and on medals throughout the Empire, of the phrase “Britanniarum omnium”, “of all the Britains”, originally introduced under Edward VII, continued to convey as telegraphically as possible the concept not only of the “United Kingdom” or “Great Britain and Ireland” but also of “the British Dominions beyond the Seas”.
The next change in the Royal Style and Titles was the outcome of the independence of India in 1947. But an additional complication had come into play with the passage of the Statute of Westminster in 1931. Recognising that the King’s great Dominions were now, internationally, independent countries, or, to use the language of the constitutional scholar of the time, Arthur Berriedale Keith, that the King himself had become, in international law, no longer one state, but a state in respect of each of his independent dominions, the Statute of Westminster had declared by way of preamble that it would be in accord with the relationship of all the members of the Commonwealth to one another, that is, one of equality as described by the Imperial Conference of 1926, that “any alteration in the law touching the Succession to the Throne or 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.” The Tudors had begun to associate Parliament with their assumption of titles in order to lend their actions greater authority; now it was declared (even though only in the preamble to the Statute, so that it does not bind the Parliament of the United Kingdom legally but only morally) that the assent of the British Parliament, and of all the parliaments of the Dominions, is required for any change to the King’s title. Moreover, and this is of supreme significance when we are confronted with the common usage of an expression like “the British Crown” or a neologistic usage like “the Canadian Crown”, the Statute of Westminster, echoing the usage of the Resolution of the Imperial Conference of 1926 before it, created, or rather described, a new situation, perhaps almost imperceptible but positively revolutionary in its significance, by ceasing to use any expression like “the Imperial Crown of the United Kingdom and its Dependencies”. No longer was there any geography mentioned at all but only “the Crown”, simpliciter, a Crown which now transcended any named realm and floated mystically and impartially over all its dominions. It could be argued that it was an impoverishment that the epithet “Imperial” also ceased to be used to describe the Crown. This, as we have observed, was simply a description of the Crown as independent and subject to no superior authority, a situation which certainly remained true, but it was probably omitted because it had become inextricably associated with the idea of the British Empire as such. But this usage simply of “the Crown” has continued in all subsequent constitutional documents. In Canada, for example, the flag resolutions of both Houses of the Parliament of Canada in December, 1964, declare that the Union Flag continues in Canada as “a symbol of Canada’s… allegiance to the Crown”. In the royal warrant establishing the Order of New Zealand in 1987, the Queen declares that those eligible for appointment as ordinary members are “subjects of Our Crown”, that is, citizens of all Commonwealth countries of which she is Queen; citizens of Commonwealth countries of which she is not Queen, as well as foreigners, may be only honorary members. (The one exception to this new use simply of “the Crown” is in the accession proclamations of King Edward VIII and King George VI, which still refer to the “Imperial Crown of Great Britain, Ireland (at least there is cognizance taken of the proclamation of 1927), and all other His late [or former] Majesty’s dominions”. But these proclamations were tralaticious productions of heralds, not of constitutional lawyers.)
This necessary assent of the parliaments of the independent Dominions was first exercised after 1931 to provide the authority for a United Kingdom act of Parliament to give effect to the desire of of King Edward VIII to abdicate (and to the accession thereupon according to law of King George VI) in 1936. In 1947 it had to be exercised again to authorise the King to cease styling himself Emperor of India.
But the question arose of what was to be done between the independence of India on 15 August, 1947, and a proclamation to dispense with the imperial Indian title, which could be issued only when the other Dominions had provided the authorisation for its issuance by their assent and, if necessary, their own local legislation. (Eire refused to cooperate, as it also had in 1936 (when its assent to the abdication of Edward VIII (and therefore the succession of George VI) could be inferred only from its passage of its own External Relations Act (on 12 December, 1936, one day after the Act to give effect to King Edward VIII’s abdication had become law!), recognising (for diplomatic, that is, external purposes only) whoever was the Sovereign recognised by the other nations of the Commonwealth), but since the requirement of the preamble of the Statute of Westminster is only, as we have observed, morally rather than legally binding, this did not prevent the United Kingdom Parliament from acting merely on the assent of the other Dominion parliaments.)
King George VI himself suggested that until the authorisation of all the Commonwealth parliaments was granted, he would continue to use the imperial Indian title in all matters except those referring specifically to India and Pakistan (for which, for example, commissions had to be issued before independence appointing the governors-general of the new Dominions). The British prime minister, Clement Attlee, demonstrated a certain lack of prescience by not liking the idea that the King should have different titles in different parts of his dominions. His final solution, however, in which the King concurred, actually contradicts his original scruple. It was decided that while the King would cease to sign himself as Emperor on 15 August (so he signed only “George R.” as a witness to the marriage of his elder daughter, the then Princess Elizabeth, in November of 1947), he would cease the practice even before that date on documents related to India and Pakistan! But what happened in other situations before the proclamation could be issued? The imperial Indian title is not used, for example, in the new letters patent establishing the office of Governor General of Canada in October of 1947, but this can be explained by the fact that, going back to the original 1876 restriction on its use, the title had never been used in letters patent. On the other hand, the 1948 coinage of the United Kingdom and Australia (in Latin) and of New Zealand (in English) included the King’s imperial Indian title. Canada, for its part, avoided making a decision and actually reissued its 1947 coinage in 1948 (distinguished by a tiny maple leaf next to the date) with the imperial Indian title. But finally, once all the parliamentary approvals had been garnered, by proclamation on 22 June, 1948, King George VI omitted “Indiae Imperator” and “Emperor of India” from his titles.
A Commonwealth Conference of prime ministers in April, 1949, next dealt with the desire of India to become a republic and yet remain in the Commonwealth, the fundamental requirement of membership of which had been allegiance to the Crown. The result of this meeting was that the members of the Commonwealth came to an agreement that, though the King would lose his sovereignty in India, India would nevertheless remain a member of the Commonwealth. Canada, in the person of the prime minister of the day, Louis St Laurent, who was absent from the Conference but represented by the Secretary of State for External Affairs, Lester Pearson, is credited with assisting the British Government in drafting the London Declaration, which adjusted the basis for the unity of the Commonwealth by adapting the language of the Statute of Westminster concerning the Crown. It declared that, in respect of the Commonwealth, the King (that is, in his own person) rather than the Crown as an institution was “the symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth”. A new position for the King had been recognised and a new title to describe this position had obviously been created, but for the time being nothing was done about incorporating it into the Royal Style and Titles.
On 6 February, 1952, therefore, Queen Elizabeth II became “by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Dominions beyond the Seas Queen, Defender of the Faith”. She was proclaimed by this title on 6 February first of all in Canada (with the addition of “Supreme Liege Lady in and over Canada”). But when, because of time zones, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand followed with accession proclamations on 7 February, a sudden change was made, authorised by no law and with no indication by whose authority (apparently simply that of British ministers improvising on the spot without having time to consult with other members of the Commonwealth) the change was made. In those three countries the Queen was proclaimed “by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of all Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith”. (In Australia there was added, as in Canada, “Supreme Liege Lady in and over the Commonwealth of Australia”.) The Union of South Africa, like Canada, did not adopt this imaginative but unlawful new title but obeyed the law as it stood, adding “Sovereign in and over the Union of South Africa”. The Governor-General of Pakistan, picking up on the unofficial formula but not wanting to associate Pakistan itself too closely with the Queen’s sovereignty, proclaimed merely that Queen Elizabeth II was now “Queen of Her Realms and Territories and Head of the Commonwealth” (thereby at least implying that Pakistan was one of those realms), and the Governor-General, Prime Minister, and ministers of the Crown in Ceylon proclaimed her simply “our Sovereign Queen”. There was, of course, no proclamation in India, the Queen not being Queen there, but the Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, did write a letter to the Queen on 8 February congratulating her on her accession but in addition welcoming her “as the new Head of the Commonwealth”.
The approaching Coronation was seen as an opportune moment to alter the Royal Style and Titles, first because the reference to Ireland was out of date since Eire, the former Irish Free State, had broken its last link with the sovereignty of the Monarch and become the Republic of Ireland outside the Commonwealth in April of 1949, but, just as important, Commonwealth governments felt that the mention of the British Dominions beyond the Seas was not in accordance with the present state of the constitutional relationship among the independent and equal members of the Commonwealth of Nations, which itself, since the declaration of 1949, was no longer properly referred to as the British Commonwealth of Nations. A Commonwealth Conference of prime ministers arrived at a decision in December, 1952, that the Queen should adopt individual titles for each of her realms, but in keeping with the principle established by the preamble to the Statute of Westminster, parliamentary action to bring this decision into effect needed to be taken by all those members of the Commonwealth which remained the Queen’s realms; that is, the Republic of India did not need to take action about a title because the Queen had no title in India as such.
Two main principles were arrived at at the Conference of 1952. It was agreed that, for the first time, each Commonwealth realm, as we have noted, would provide for a title for the Queen to be used in connexion with that realm exclusively, that is, the Queen would no longer have one style throughout her realms, but that the title used in each realm would nevertheless have a “substantial element” in common with all the others. Arriving at this first principle was difficult. At first, in a desire to preserve one title for the Queen, it had been suggested that the Queen should be styled “Queen of this Realm and of all Her other Realms and Territories” with no mention of any country at all, the very formula by which she had been proclaimed in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand at her accession. Surprisingly, since this had been a British innovation and since Britain is the only country in the world that does not, for example, put its name on its postage stamps and identifies its coinage only by the portrait and at least partial title of the monarch, it was Britain that objected to this solution on the grounds that the letters of credence of ambassadors, for one thing, could be confusing if they did not indicate from what country an ambassador was coming in addition to what sovereign was sending him. Australia therefore proposed that the names of all the Queen’s realms be included in her title, a feasible solution perhaps for seven countries, but not one regarded as practicable if the number of realms should increase, as indeed they did. (It was never even considered that if any realms included in such a title also ceased to be realms, they would have to be removed.) New Zealand originally proposed that it alone be mentioned in its own title, but Canada, Australia, and New Zealand finally came to the view that, in addition to their own country, the United Kingdom as the source and guardian of the shared Monarchy should be mentioned in their own titles. The second principle, that a substantial common element should be preserved in all the titles, produced the reference to the Queen’s “other Realms and Territories” and her position as “Head of the Commonwealth”, now to be added to the Royal Style and Titles.
Parliamentary action throughout the various realms of the Commonwealth to put this agreement into effect and establish the Queen’s new distinctive titles now took place in the first part of 1953. The British Parliament again passed an act (11 February) assenting to the Queen’s adoption of any title she saw fit. This led to a proclamation on 28 May, 1953, made public on 29 May. Indeed, all the Commonwealth realms were able to make their proclamations in common on 28 May, appropriately just a few days before the Coronation, thus preserving a practical demonstration of the unity of the Queen’s sovereignty. In the United Kingdom the Queen styled herself “by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith” and in Latin, “Dei Gratia Britanniarum Regnorumque Suorum Ceterorum Regina, Consortionis Populorum Princeps, Fidei Defensor” [“by the Grace of God of the Britains and all Her other Realms Queen, Chief (or Prince?) of the Consortium of Peoples, Defender of the Faith”]. The return of a reference in English to the United Kingdom, now restricted to Great Britain and only Northern Ireland, brought a return in the Latin to the classical reference to “the Britains” rather than an attempt to translate the even lengthier name of the reduced United Kingdom. Indeed, in Australia a Latin text of the Queen’s new title was devised for the Great Seal of Australia, inserting “Terrae Australis”, [“of the Southern Land”], between “Britanniarum” and “Regnorumque”. On the other hand, the removal of “et transmarinarum terrarum quae in ditione sunt Britannica”/“and of the British dominions beyond the seas” from the Queen’s actual title also produced the removal in the British and Australian coinage of 1954 of the whole phrase “Britanniarum omnium” (“of all the Britains”), so that British coinage, and also Australian coinage up to decimalisation in 1968, when Latin and all the Queen’s titles were removed, were brought into a kind of harmony with the Latin inscription on Canadian coinage, which had never stated of what country or countries the Sovereign was King or Queen. As well, with this omission of “Britanniarum omnium” in the Queen’s title in Latin, it (or rather its abbreviation “Britt. omn.”) was also omitted in the Latin inscriptions of all medals anywhere in the Commonwealth depicting the Queen, to whom henceforth no country at all was attributed (New Zealand medals created since 2001, however, have replaced the Latin inscription “Elizabeth II Dei gratia Regina, F.D.” with the English text, “Elizabeth II Queen of New Zealand”, while Australian medals created since 1986 no longer bear the effigy of the Queen).
Parallel parliamentary actions for the Queen’s new title were adopted in Canada (also assented to 11 February), Australia (where, as a “gracious” gesture toward the Queen, the act was reserved on 18 March “for the Queen’s pleasure” and assented to by the Queen personally in Britain on 3 April), and New Zealand to meet that 28 May date. But their parliaments did not simply enact that the Queen should adopt any title which she saw fit (but which would be advised her by her appropriate ministers), but set out in legislation the specific title to which they were consenting that she should assume. In each case, she was authorised to proclaim herself “by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, Country [that is, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, as the case might be], and Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith”. The United Kingdom remained mentioned, in short form, and only the local country was also included (as we have already seen in the Latin adaptation for Australia). A unique development in Canada was that, for the first time, an official and statutory, as opposed to a merely practical, French version of the Royal Style and Titles was created, “Élizabeth Deux, par la grâce de Dieu, Reine du Royaume-Uni, du Canada, et de ses autres royaumes et territoires, Chef du Commonwealth, Défenseur de la Foi” (with “Reine” preceding rather than following the realms). The Australian legislation went further than that of other countries to preserve the stipulations of the Statute of Westminster and the agreement of the Commonwealth Conference of 1952 both by giving an undertaking to consult the other Commonwealth governments if any further alteration to the Queen’s title were to be contemplated in the future in Australia and giving the assent of the Parliament of Australia to the adoption by the Queen of any other title in her other realms and territories.
In considering the new title as it was brought into effect in Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and indeed as the Queen had originally been proclaimed in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, it should be noticed that the devisers of the new title had broken with a practice of over four hundred years’ duration. They had obviously entirely forgotten the practice, based on the requirement of Pope Leo X in his original grant, that the title “Defender of the Faith” should follow immediately on that of “King” or “Queen”. Now the new title “Head of the Commonwealth” was inserted before “Defender of the Faith”.
The Commonwealth Conference of December, 1952, had dealt, moreover, with views on just this subject held by South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon. For different reasons, they had expressed unease about the phrase “by the Grace of God”, and it therefore went without saying that they felt equal unease altogether about “Defender of the Faith”. In addition, there was some concern about a specific mention of the United Kingdom.
We said at the beginning of this account that we would return to the expression “by the Grace of God”, first taken into use by William II in the eleventh century. What does it mean? It is hardly likely, first of all, after our survey of the different realms that have passed into and out of the sovereignty of our monarchs, that it means that the Queen is queen of any particular country by the grace of God, although this is what most people would say if asked. (Indeed, this is a very attractive interpretation, one which ought to give at least pious republicans pause that in their political belief they are opposing the will of God.) It has been suggested that it was taken into use to express the belief that the King of England was a sovereign, that England, as Henry VIII would later express it (apparently Thomas Cromwell is responsible for the formulation), was an empire (hence the references we have noticed to the Imperial Crown of the United Kingdom). In this usage, the terms “empire” and “imperial” have nothing to do with the historical British Empire, but mean specifically that England, or later, the United Kingdom, is what we now call a state, that is, a polity internationally recognised as subject to no outside authority.
But perhaps this phrase can be understood even more deeply. If one looks at old documents, like royal charters, for example, one sees that the phrase is always closely attached to the name of the monarch. After the capital letters of “Victoria by the Grace of God” (for example, in the warrant granting Trinity College, Toronto, the status of a university, or that appointing James Douglas Governor of British Columbia) with no comma between the Queen’s name and “by the Grace”, the words indicating her realm and that she is its queen follow on the next line in small letters. The theory can therefore be advanced that the expression “by the Grace of God” is in fact a statement of the Catholic belief that everything good is a grace of God. Every human being exists by the grace of God. Of whom could or should this universal truth be more appropriately declared than of a monarch, who stands, under God, at the head of her people? It is therefore disappointing that, with this proclamation of the title of Queen Elizabeth II around the Commonwealth, a comma was inserted (not that such a comma was not also found in previously formulations of the Royal Style and Titles) between the Queen’s name and “by the Grace of God”. The United Kingdom Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, adopting the interpretation that the phrase modified “Queen” rather than Elizabeth II herself, agreed with this insertion on the ground that, while the Queen was Queen by the grace of God, the phrase could obviously not apply to “Head of the Commonwealth”. Its insertion has definitely diminished the understanding that “by the Grace of God” goes with the Queen’s name rather than her position and has led people to believe that it really goes with what follows, that is, a statement of how the Queen is queen of her realms. It has produced the ugly development in Canada of a maple leaf, on some earlier versions of the two-dollar coin and on the South-West Asia Medal, being stuck into the midst of the Queen’s title in Latin, between her name and the Name of God.
The Buddhist majority in Ceylon, not believing in God at all, and Islamic Pakistan, not sure, apparently, whether a reference to God might be taken as a specifically Christian rather than also as an Islamic reference, did not wish to use the phrase. Neither did the Union of South Africa. In this last case, one wonders why a political establishment so proud of its Protestant Christian faith would object to this expression. Indeed, even in the reign of George VI the South Africans had removed the phrase from their coins and, to fill up the therefore available space, had to expand the Roman numeral “VI” to the Latin word “Sextus”. The most common interpretation of this desire to be rid of the phrase is the wish of so many in the political establishment of South Africa (that is, in the National Party, which had replaced the Union Party of Field Marshal Smuts as the Government of South Africa after the Royal Tour of 1948) to replace the Monarchy with a South African republic. It is logical to think that such republicans would not wish to be embarrassed by thrusting from her sovereignty someone who held it by the grace of God and thereby “be found to fight even against God” (Acts 5.39). But a much more likely theory is that the dislike of the phrase among South Africans in power arose precisely from their Calvinist theology. This theological position maintains that some things, some people, in this world already lie under God’s inscrutable damnation, even if they appear good. Since we cannot tell until the Day of Judgement who or what is cast away from God’s grace, we likewise cannot at present tell who or what is favoured by God with His grace. We are therefore not justified in applying the expression to anything, we are not justified in asserting that the very existence of George VI or Elizabeth II is the result of God’s grace. This appears to be a plausible reason for South Africa’s wish to remove the phrase.
The South African Parliament, in its parliamentary process, also did something else unprecedented. It certainly did not, like Britain, authorise the Queen to assume any title which she saw fit, nor even, like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, set out the title which it was authorising the Queen to assume, but claimed a new power never exercised by a parliament before. Quite clearly misrepresenting what had been agreed on at the Commonwealth Conference, it “appointed and declared” a title for the Queen and imposed it on her, in Latin, English, and Afrikaans: “Queen of South Africa and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth”. And unlike Canada, which arrived at an interpretation of what the Queen’s defence of the faith could mean in a society with no established religion (Louis St Laurent argued in Parliament that “anyone who believed in the Supreme Being” would not object “to having the sovereign, the head of the civil authority, described as a believer in and a defender of the faith in a supreme ruler”), South Africa did not wish her to be so styled at all.
The Parliament of Ceylon, acting in a more monarchical fashion than that of South Africa, enacted legislation authorising the Queen to proclaim for herself the Royal Style and Titles agreed upon for Ceylon, and in this form followed the South African text, but using its own name, Ceylon. Pakistan, however, while also following this model, mentioned the United Kingdom rather than itself, though Pakistan would certainly be implicitly included among the Queen’s “other Realms”. It was suggested at the time that the Pakistani title was possibly in anticipation of Pakistan’s becoming, like India, a republic, an action it took in 1956. In that eventuality, it would not be able to be said that Pakistan had deprived the Queen of a title!
As dependent territories, starting in 1957, have advanced to independence, they have also, if they have preserved the Queen’s sovereignty, arrived at a domestic Royal Style and Titles for Her Majesty. The form, which we shall come to itself in a moment, is normally that now used by Australia, which decided in 1973 to alter the Queen’s 1953 title in Australia. Although the Australian act of 1953 had committed Australia to consult the other Commonwealth governments if any further alteration to the Queen’s title were to be contemplated, the acceptance of the theory, based on political reality, that the Commonwealth realms no longer have any constitutional connexion among themselves other than the Act of Settlement (1701), which, together with its amendments in the various realms starting in 2013, governs in common the succession to their sovereignty, has led to the acceptance that the provision of the preamble to the Statute of Westminster about the Monarch’s title is now a dead letter.
As for Australia’s change in 1973, Bob Hawke, the Australian Prime Minister at the time, wanted, in a spectacular display of nationalism and secularism, to remove both “the Second” and the phrase “by the Grace of God”, but the Queen herself objected to these proposals, first, it is reported, out of fear of providing ammunition for Scots nationalism and, second, because the expression “by the Grace of God” was “important to her”. The removal therefore only of the explicit mention of the United Kingdom and of the title “Defender of the Faith” left the Queen “by the Grace of God, Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth”. The enabling act was passed and reserved for the Queen’s pleasure on 14 September, 1973. The Queen assented to it personally while she was in Australia on 19 October and then immediately issued the proclamation assuming the new title. So impressive, apparently, was this event that Australians, even monarchists, have subsequently adopted the odd practice of referring to 1973 as the date on which the Queen assumed the title “Queen of Australia”, ignoring the form of 1953, where the fact was tucked in much more modestly. What a shame that it took the actual removal of a mention of the United Kingdom to get people thinking of the Queen really as Queen of Australia.
This formula is that used, with, of course, a mention of their own country, and with minor variations in punctuation and with either the inclusion or exclusion of “of” before “Her other Realms and Territories”, in Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tuvalu. Jamaica uses the same formula but prefers the Latinate word order of putting “Queen” after “of Jamaica and Her other Realms and territories”. Grenada is now the only country other than the United Kingdom itself and Canada to retain a mention of the United Kingdom, and that in its full form. In Grenada, the Queen is “by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Grenada and Her other Realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth”.
New Zealand followed the example of Australia and altered the Queen’s title in the Realm of New Zealand (which includes New Zealand proper and its dependent territories in Antarctica and the Pacific as well as the associated states of Cook Islands and Niue) in 1974. Unfortunately, although New Zealand preserved the Queen’s title, “Defender of the Faith” (so that Britain, Canada, and New Zealand are now the only realms where the Queen holds this title), and removed only the explicit reference to the United Kingdom, so that the Queen is now “by the Grace of God, Queen of New Zealand and Her other Realms and territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith”, the method of providing the Queen with this altered title was not praiseworthy. Instead of legislating its assent to the adoption by the Queen of a title, even, unlike in Britain, a title which, as in 1953, it set out in the legislation, the New Zealand Parliament followed the South African example of 1953 and simply enacted that this was now the title appertaining to the Crown in respect of New Zealand and its territories. This apparently rude neglect of the Queen’s customary role to proclaim her own title is perhaps mitigated by the fact that the Queen was personally present in New Zealand for the passage of the bill (and had opened the very session of Parliament in which the bill was enacted), and so was able to take her full part in the parliamentary procedure at least by assenting to the act personally. Coincidentally, this was the method that Pierre Trudeau intended to use in Canada in his Constitutional Amendment Bill of 1978, with no thought of the possibility of any personal assent by the Queen. The Queen’s title would have been changed in Canada (to a formula like that of New Zealand’s, that is, simply omitting a reference to the United Kingdom) by a mere schedule to that act, without the necessity of any proclamation by the Queen herself.
Finally, the only present realms of the Queen (South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon having long ago cast off their allegiance) which does not include “by the Grace of God” in her title are Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. (The Royal Web site is unaware of this, but that site cannot be trusted for accuracy.) Those Papua New Guineans who are not still animists in the hinterland are, apparently, serious Christians on the whole, so the failure of this country to use the phrase “by the Grace of God” cannot be the result of a different or absent religion. It would seem that the non-use of the phrase in Papua New Guinea arises from that interpretation that we suggested is now normally accepted, that the phrase means that it is due to the grace of God that the Queen is Queen of a particular country. Well, of course that is true theologically (remember, everything good is a grace of God), but putting that interpretation on the phrase has, it would appear, encouraged Papua New Guineans not to use it. The Independent State of Papua New Guinea did not come into existence by the granting of independence to a territory already under the sovereignty of the Queen or by the annexation of territory to her Crown in the very process of independence. The southern part of Papua New Guinea had been annexed to what was then the Crown of the United Kingdom and assigned to the administration of Queensland before Australian federation, when it therefore became a dependent territory of Australia, but the northern part was taken from Germany after the Great War, theoretically by the King but in a League of Nations mandate to Australia, and, after the Second World War, was turned into a United Nations trusteeship administered by Australia and therefore not within the sovereignty of the Queen of Australia. Both territories had been administered by Australia as a unity, but at independence in 1974, the whole united country was simply abandoned constitutionally by Australia, and left to make up its own constitution from scratch, not gaining it by an original grant from the Crown, even in right of Australia. The Queen became Queen and Head of State of Papua New Guinea (the only country, it can be shown, in which she is not Sovereign but precisely only Head of State) simply because the people of Papua New Guinea, through their Constitutional Convention, asked her to become such, and she accepted their invitation. Because of that erroneous interpretation of “by the Grace of God”, it seemed inaccurate to describe the gift of the people of Papua New Guinea to the Queen of the headship of their country as a gift, that is, the grace, of God. Hence she is there simply “Queen of Papua New Guinea and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth” The Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (given to the people by themselves, not by the Queen), like South Africa in 1953 and New Zealand in 1974, also (sections 82 and 85) imposes this title on her and authorises Parliament (of which the Queen is not part) to determine the title in the future.
Solomon Islands legislated in respect of the Queen’s title in August of 2013. The Queen’s title here, also now imposed upon her, is now “Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Solomon Islands and Her Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth”. It would appear that “by the Grace of God” was omitted, perhaps quite inadvertently, because the Solomon Island legislators concentrated solely on what the Commonwealth Conference of 1952 declared about the preservation of that “common element” in the Queen’s title, which simply did not include “by the Grace of God”. That would also explain why they otherwise inexplicably (and inadvertently?) also omitted “other” before “Realms and Territories”. They simply quoted the text of the Commonwealth Conference of 1952 without considering whether that wording still makes sense in the context in which they have placed it. As the Queen’s Solomon Islands title now reads, Solomon Islands appears illogically not to be one of the Queen’s realms and territories!
Perhaps this is the place to notice another inadvertence which pops up all the time and only occasionally, and even then only in some British documents but not in others is considered and provided for. That is, though the Queen’s title in all her realms describes her in the third person as Queen “of Her (other) Realms and Territories”, this wording is obviously illogical when the Queen is speaking of herself, that is, in the first person, either in fact or symbolically with a governor as witness, as in a proclamation or charter. Only in Britain do some documents appear in which the Queen is allowed to describe herself in the first person as Queen “of Our other Realms and Territories”. In every other situation, e.g., Canadian proclamations or New Zealand royal warrants, when, in the course of the document the Queen refers to herself in the first person as “We”, the words of the official title are simply repeated mindlessly and the Queen refers to herself illogically in the third person as “Queen of Her other Realms and Territories”.
We are at the end of the story of the development of the title of the Anglo-Saxon monarchs, whose successors became first the sovereigns of all the British Isles, then of the largest empire that has ever existed in the history of the world, and finally whose present successor is now the Queen individually of sixteen Commonwealth countries, some large, others very small. That title has reflected, often lagging behind by decades or even centuries, the history of that sovereignty. At first, it was simply what a monarch chose to style himself. Then the Tudors sought the support of Parliament and gave themselves styles on the authority of the offices which Parliament granted or conceded to them. Then Parliament, or, more realistically, governments, took the initiative and authorised the Sovereign to adopt titles in keeping with new political developments. Finally, with the division of the Crown’s sovereignty over several independent nations, some of the parliaments and governments of those nations have gone even further and imposed a style on the Queen.
Is there some particular significance which we can draw for today from the state which this development of a thousand years of our history has reached? With all the separate titles now borne by the Queen, the world and the Commonwealth have reached a point where most of the peoples of the Queen’s realms no longer think, or even remember, that they once formed a great unity of peoples under the Crown. With the loss of that sense of Commonwealth-wide unity, what has been able to be preserved in these new titles describing the Queen is at least the sense that the Queen is the Queen of a particular people, the Queen of the people of a particular country. That is, of course, an important, indeed essential, sense, one attacked by the Queen’s enemies, who like to promote the idea that she is a foreign figure, an idea that tends to be very powerful in the public forum. The acceptance of the Queen’s sovereignty in her various realms, along with the potential sovereignty of her successors, is sometimes therefore precarious, often rises and falls with reports in the media, and depends increasingly, it would seem, on the successful promotion of that sense of the Queen as Queen of that particular country. It is important therefore that this sense of the Queen as Queen of a particular country, when the dismissive categorisation of “Queen of England” lingers in the media and in popular discourse, be maintained in the public consciousness. But at the same time, it is also important not to forget that “common element”, “Queen of Her other Realms and Territories” and “Head of the Commonwealth”, which was so important to those who adopted these formulas at the Commonwealth Conference of 1952. The fact that our Queen is Queen not only of Canada but also of her other realms and territories is the strongest evidence to ourselves and to the whole world not only that our whole history and national identity, rooted in the Crown, are important to us as Canadians, but that a monarchical organisation of society is not restricted to one or even a few countries, but, extending over many nations around the world, is a witness in and to a wider, troubled world that peace, order, and good government are most likely to be achieved and sustained under the Crown, personified and enlivened by a symbolic, but real and living, person who wears that crown.