Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Crown Definition:

The English Monarch, where she is the symbolic head of state.

Related Terms: District Attorney, Government, Monarchy, State, Rex Nunquam Moritur, Sovereign

The word refers specifically to the British Monarch, where she is the head of state of most Commonwealth countries.

As authors White and Willock wrote:

"The Crown is a term used to mean, in effect, the state.

"It is a symbol of the power of the state, which was formerly vested in the monarch. Thus, for example, the prosecution of crime is said to be on behalf of the Crown."

In democracies, as opposed to strict monarchies, the Crown or the reigning monarch, is by legal fiction, the ornamental figure-head for the government and has no power or authority, or very little, and then only to resolve limited constitutional crisis, but instead acts at the request and behest of the government only. This, reference to the Crown in law, is often a reference to the government or the state.

By the tradition of criminal law, prosecutions, and civil cases taken (or defended) by the government, are sometimes taken in the name of the Crown as head of state.

That is why public prosecutors are referred to, in Canada, as "Crown" prosecutors and criminal cases take the form of "The Crown vs. John Doe" or "Regina vs. John Doe", Regina being Latin for "The Queen."

In the United States, this legal fiction has, quite appropriately, gone the way of the Dodo Bird since the American Revolution of 1775-1783, and the style of cause of litigation in which the government is a party, the reference is made to the State and not the Crown.


  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Duhaime's Legal Dictionary
  • White, Robin and Willock, Ian, The Scottish Legal System, 2nd Ed. (Edinburgh: Butterworths, 1999), page 38.

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