- Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927
April 12, 1927, the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927 ("17 Geo 5, c. 4") was an Act of Parliamentof the United Kingdomthat formed a significant landmark in the constitutional history of the UK and British Empireas a whole. The Act had two consequences. The first was to change the full name of the United Kingdom (UK) to the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" from the former " United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland", in recognition of the fact that all of Ireland except the North-East had seceded to form a separate dominion, the Irish Free State.
A second function was to modify the King's title, proclaiming that George V was not king of the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions" but rather of "Great Britain", "Ireland" and "the British Dominions". The full title of the Act was "An Act to provide for the alteration of the Royal Style and Titles and of the Style of Parliament and for purposes incidental thereto". This change was likely a product of an agreement at the
Imperial Conferenceof 1926changing the relationship between Britain and the dominions as outlined in the Balfour Declaration of 1926. It was the Balfour Declaration in which it was agreed that the United Kingdom and the dominions were "equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations".
Separating the role of the Crown in Great Britain and in Ireland ended the right of the government in London to advise the King on actions to take regarding Ireland. The King of Ireland would take advice only from ministers in Dublin. The new
Governor-General of the Irish Free Statein Dublin also became a conduit between the King of Irelandand the Executive Council of the Irish Free State(the government), and did not receive confidential instructions and documents from the London government.
Separating the roles of the Crown also meant that changes to the succession had to be agreed upon by all of the
Commonwealth Realms, lest the personal unionof the Crown be broken. Éamon de Valeracombined Edward VIII's abdicationon 11 December 1936with a drastic limitation of royal power in Ireland. The delay in passing the Executive Authority (External Relations) Act, 1936 meant that Edward VIII was King of Ireland until 12 December 1936.
However, most constitutional historians concentrate their focus on either the
Statute of Westminster, 1931or the Balfour Declaration of 1926 as being the crucial milestone in the evolution of the relationship between the Crown and what was becoming known as the British Commonwealth.
Royal Style and Titles Act"
1927Act did not change the title of the United Kingdom explicitly. Rather, it did this by changing the title of the British Parliament. Section 2 of the Act changed Parliament's title from the "Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland" to the "Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". Historians generally retrospectively date the coming into being of the modern United Kingdom to December 1922, when the Irish Free State seceded, even though the formal change of title did not occur for another five years. Despite the change of name, the Act provided that there would be no change in the numbering of Parliaments. Thus the legislature then in session continued to be the Thirty-fourth Parliament, and its successors have been numbered accordingly.
The Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act was passed following the
Imperial Conferenceof 1926in which, under the shadow of the King-Byng Affair, Canadaled a push among the dominions for a reinterpretation of the relationship between Britain and the dominions so that the latter would be equal to the former rather than subordinate. This required a change in the relationship between the Crown and its realms so that the dominions related to the crown independently and directly rather than as subjects of the British government.
The government of the
Irish Free Stateput the changes introduced by the Act into immediate effect, assuming the right to select its own Governor-General, demanding a direct right of audience with the King, and beginning to accept the credentials of international ambassadors to the Irish state—something no other Dominion up until that time had done.
The Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act was followed by the
Statute of Westminster 1931which granted Dominon parliaments the power to enact or amend almost any legislation they chose, and removed the right, in most circumstance, for the British Parliamentto legislate for the Dominions.
Most Dominions were slower than the Irish Free State to respond to the constitutional changes of 1927 and 1931 with moves to sever such ties with the United Kingdom, and many, when they did, were faced with determined, though ultimately futile, opposition from the
United Kingdom's government of the day. Many Dominions waited until the accession of Elizabeth II in 1952to codify their new autonomy into domestic law.
An interesting consequence of the 1927 Act was that Edward VIII's abdication in
1936required separate legal acknowledgement in each Commonwealth nation. In the Irish Free State, that acknowledgment, in the form of the External Relations Act, occurred a day later than elsewhere, leaving Edward technically as " King of Ireland" for a day, while George VI was king of all other Commonwealth realms.
1948and 1953, further changes were made to the title of the monarch by British Acts of Parliament. However the law passed in 1953 was the first to apply only to the United Kingdom and its dependencies. In that year the practice was begun of using separate styles for each of the Commonwealth Realmsin which the monarch is head of state, the style in each case determined by the native parliament.
In 1953 the Dominion governments agreed that the practice of separate titles should continue in the reign of the new Queen Elizabeth II. Each country adopted its own titles, and the British act of parliament clearly stated that it applied only to the United Kingdom and those overseas territories whose foreign relations were controlled by the UK government.
Style of the British Sovereign
* [http://www.heraldica.org/topics/britain/britstyles.htm#1927 Royal Styles and Titles of Great Britain: Documents] . Full text of the Act and of the royal proclamation.
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