Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Rex Nunquam Moritur Definition:

Latin: the king never dies.

Related Terms: Crown, Monarchy, Rex Non Potest Peccare, Non Potest Rex Gratiam Facere Cum Injuria Et Damno Aliorum

A Latin maxim that refers, essentially, to the legal fiction that the Crown, government, never dies; is a person with perpetual existence.

The office of sovereign is never vacant; it passes seamlessly to the heir to the Crown much in the way property passes seamlessly from a deceased joint tenant to the survivor joint tenant.

Herbert Broom was of the view that this maxim - rex nunquam moritur - was of fundamental importance. he wrote:

"The law ascribes to the king, in his political capacity, an absolute immortality; and, immediately upon the decease of the reigning prince in his natural capacity, the kingly dignity and the prerogatives and politic capacities of the supreme magistrate, by act of law, without any interregnum or interval, vest at once in his successor, who is, eo instante, king, to all intents and purposes.

"And so tender is the law of supposing even a possibility of his death, that his natural dissolution is generally called his demise - demnissio regis vel corone - an expression which signifies merely a transfer of property. And when we speak of the demise of the Crown, we mean only, that, in consequence of the disunion of the king's natural body from his body politic, the kingdom is transferred or demised to his successor; and so the royal dignity remains perpetual.

"It has, however, usually been thought prudent, when the heir-apparent has been very young, to appoint a protector, guardian, or regent for a limited time. But the very necessity of such extraordinary provision is sufficient to demonstrate the truth of that maxim of the common law, that in the king is no minority - and, therefore, he has no legal guardian; and such provision is to be considered only as a law framed to meet a particular emergency."


  • Broom, Herbert, A Selection of Legal Maxims Classified and Illustrated, 10th Ed., (London: Sweet & Maxwell Limited, 1939)

Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!