Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of Crown

  1. The word refers specifically to the British Monarch, where she is the head of state of Commonwealth countries. Prosecutions and civil cases taken (or defended) by the government are 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."

Definition of Crown

Further reading

The Crown

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 Kingdom 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 Jewels, which are the property of the Crown and not the reigning monarch.

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 States, where the format is ["the people" or "the State"] v. [the defendant] (e.g. People of the State of New York v. LaValle or Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada) 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.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     lex fori
2.     landed property
3.     lex situs
4.     respondent
5.     default judgment
6.     tort law
7.     living will
8.     lex causae
9.     law
10.     salacious