Crown colony

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Crown colony, dependent territory or royal colony were dependent territories under the administration of United Kingdom overseas territories that were controlled by the British Government. As such they are examples of dependencies that are under colonial rule. Crown colonies were renamed "British Dependent Territories" in 1981, and since 2002, Crown colonies have been known officially as British Overseas Territories. [1]

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Government of the United Kingdom central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The Government of the United Kingdom, formally referred to as Her Majesty's Government, is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is also commonly referred to as simply the UK Government or the British Government.

A dependent territory, dependent area or dependency is a territory that does not possess full political independence or sovereignty as a sovereign state yet remains politically outside the controlling state's integral area.


In such territories, residents do not elect members of the British parliament. A Crown colony is usually administered by a governor who directly controls the executive and is appointed by "the Crown" — a term that in practice usually means the UK government, acting on behalf of the monarch. However, the term "Crown colony" has sometimes been used of entities that have elected governments and partial autonomy; these are also known as self-governing colonies.

A governor is, in most cases, a public official with the power to govern the executive branch of a non-sovereign or sub-national level of government, ranking under the head of state. In federations, governor may be the title of a politician who governs a constituent state and may be either appointed or elected. The power of the individual governor can vary dramatically between political systems, with some governors having only nominal or largely ceremonial power, while others having a complete control over the entire government.

The Crown is the state in all its aspects within the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth realms and their sub-divisions. Legally ill-defined, the term has different meanings depending on context. It is used to designate the monarch in either a personal capacity, as Head of the Commonwealth, or as the king or queen of his or her realms. It can also refer to the rule of law; however, in common parlance 'The Crown' refers to the functions of government and the civil service.


The first "royal colony" was the Colony of Virginia, after 1624, when the Crown of the Kingdom of England revoked the royal charter it had granted to the Virginia Company and assumed control of the administration. [2]

Colony of Virginia English/British possession in North America (1607–1776)

The Colony of Virginia, chartered in 1606 and settled in 1607, was the first enduring English colony in North America, following failed proprietary attempts at settlement on Newfoundland by Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1583, and the subsequent further south Roanoke Island by Sir Walter Raleigh in the late 1580s.

Kingdom of England historic sovereign kingdom on the British Isles (927–1649; 1660–1707)

The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on the island of Great Britain from 927, when it emerged from various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 1707, when it united with Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Royal charter Document issued by a monarch, granting a right or power to an individual or organisation

A royal charter is a formal grant issued by a monarch under royal prerogative as letters patent. Historically, they have been used to promulgate public laws, the most famous example being the British Magna Carta of 1215, but since the 14th century have only been used in place of private acts to grant a right or power to an individual or a body corporate. They were, and are still, used to establish significant organisations such as boroughs, universities and learned societies.

Executive governors are sometimes complemented by a locally-appointed and/or elected legislature with limited powers — that is, such territories lack responsible government. For example, while the House of Assembly of Bermuda has existed continuously since its first session in 1620, Bermuda has only had responsible government since 1968. (Bermuda became a Crown colony in 1684, when the government revoked a Royal Charter given to the Somers Isles Company, successor to the Virginia Company, which had previously controlled administration, including the appointment of governors. Afterwards the British government appointed the Governor of Bermuda.)

A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with the executive and judicial branches of government.

Responsible government is a conception of a system of government that embodies the principle of parliamentary accountability, the foundation of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy. Governments in Westminster democracies are responsible to parliament rather than to the monarch, or, in a colonial context, to the imperial government, and in a republican context, to the president, either in full or in part. If the parliament is bicameral, then the government is responsible first to the parliament's lower house, which is more representative than the upper house, as it has more members and they are always directly elected.

House of Assembly of Bermuda

The House of Assembly is the lower house of the Parliament of the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda. The house has 36 Members of Parliament (MPs), elected for a term of five years in single seat constituencies using first-past-the-post voting. Bermuda now has universal voting with a voting age of 18 years. Voting is non-compulsory. The presiding officer of the House is called the Speaker.

Despite its later usage, the term "Crown colony" was used primarily, until the mid-19th century, to refer to colonies that had been acquired through wars, such as Trinidad and Tobago. [3] After that time it was more broadly applied to every British territory other than British India [4] , since it had it's own Secretary of State office and constituted an empire, and self-governing colonies, such as the Province of Canada, Newfoundland, British Columbia, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and New Zealand. [5]

Trinidad and Tobago Island country in the Caribbean Sea

Trinidad and Tobago, officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, is a twin island country that is the southernmost nation of the West Indies in the Caribbean. It is situated 130 kilometres south of Grenada off the northern edge of the South American mainland, 11 kilometres off the coast of northeastern Venezuela. It shares maritime boundaries with Barbados to the northeast, Grenada to the northwest, Guyana to the southeast, and Venezuela to the south and west.

British Empire States and dominions ruled by the United Kingdom

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.

British Raj British rule on the Indian subcontinent, 1858–1947

The British Raj was the rule by the British Crown on the Indian subcontinent from 1858 to 1947. The rule is also called Crown rule in India, or direct rule in India. The region under British control was commonly called India in contemporaneous usage, and included areas directly administered by the United Kingdom, which were collectively called British India, and those ruled by indigenous rulers, but under British tutelage or paramountcy, and called the princely states. The whole was also more formally called the Indian Empire. As India, it was a founding member of the League of Nations, a participating nation in the Summer Olympics in 1900, 1920, 1928, 1932, and 1936, and a founding member of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945.

By the mid-19th century, the monarch was appointing colonial governors only on the advice of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. [6]

Secretary of State for the Colonies British Cabinet minister in charge of managing the United Kingdoms various colonial dependencies

The Secretary of State for the Colonies or Colonial Secretary was the British Cabinet minister in charge of managing the United Kingdom's various colonial dependencies.

The term Crown colony continued to be used until 1981, when the British Nationality Act 1981 reclassified the remaining British colonies as "British Dependent Territories". By this time, the term "Crown colony" referred specifically to colonies lacking substantial autonomy, which were administered by an executive governor, appointed by the British Government — such as Hong Kong, before its transfer in 1997 to the People's Republic of China.


There were three types of Crown colonies as of 1918, with differing degrees of autonomy:

Crown colonies with representative councils such as Bermuda, Jamaica, Ceylon, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Fiji contained two legislative chambers, consisting of Crown-appointed and locally elected members.

Crown colonies with nominated councils such as British Honduras, Sierra Leone, Grenada and Hong Kong were staffed entirely by Crown-appointed members, with some appointed representation from the local population. Hong Kong had a representative council following the introduction of election for the Hong Kong Legislative Council in 1995.

Crown colonies ruled directly by a governor such as Basutoland, [7] Gibraltar, Saint Helena and Singapore were fewest in number and had the least autonomy.


The following list includes territories belonging by settlement, conquest or annexation to the British Crown or to an independent Commonwealth nation. a

Name of colonyfromtoReason for change of status
Flag of Aden (1937-1963).svg Aden 19371967Became part of the Federation of South Arabia.
Flag of the Bahamas.svg Bahamas 17181973Became an independent Commonwealth Realm.
Unofficial Basutoland Ensign.svg Basutoland 18841964Became British protectorate in 1964; then became independent as Lesotho in 1966.
Flag of Bermuda.svg  Bermuda 16841981Became British Dependent Territory in 1981.
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg British Bechuanaland 18851895Became part of British Cape Colony in 1895.
Flag of British Guiana (1955-1966).svg British Guiana 18311966Became independent as Guyana in 1966.
Flag of British Honduras (1919-1981).svg British Honduras (renamed Belize in 1964)18841981Became independent (as Belize) in 1981.
British Burma 1937 flag.svg Burma 19371948Separated from British India in 1937 and became a Crown colony.
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Province of Canada 18411867Became part of Canada in 1867.
Flag of the Cape Colony 1876-1910.svg Cape Colony 18061910Became part of the Union of South Africa in 1910.
Flag of the Cayman Islands.svg  Cayman Islands 19621981Became British Dependent Territory in 1981.
Flag of Ceylon (1875-1948).svg Ceylon 18151948Became independent as Dominion of Ceylon in 1948.
Bc1906.PNG British Columbia 18661871Became part of Canada in 1871.
Blue Ensign of Cyprus (1922).svg Cyprus 19141960Became independent as Cyprus in 1960.
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg East Florida 17631783Ceded to Spain. Later became part of the United States.
Flag of the Falkland Islands.svg  Falkland Islands 18411981Became a British Dependent Territory in 1981.
Flag of The Gambia (1889-1965).svg Gambia Colony and Protectorate 18881965Became independent as The Gambia in 1965.
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg Georgia 17551776Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Government Ensign of Gibraltar.svg  Gibraltar 17131981Became British Dependent Territory in 1981.
Flag of the Gold Coast (1877-1957).svg Gold Coast 18211957Became independent in 1957 as Ghana.
Flag of Hong Kong 1959.svg Hong Kong 18421997Became British Dependent Territory in 1981.
Flag of Jamaica (1957-1962).svg Jamaica 18651962Became independent in 1962 as Jamaica.
Flag of Kenya (1921-1963).svg Kenya 19201963United with the Kenya Protectorate in 1963 to form the independent country of Kenya.
Flag of Labuan (1912-1946).svg Labuan 18461890Administered by British North Borneo Company from 1890–1904.
19061946Incorporated in the Straits Settlements on 30 October 1906.
19461963Incorporated in North Borneo on 15 July 1946. Became part of Malaysia in 1963. [8]
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Lower Canada 17911841Became part of Province of Canada in 1841.
Flag of Malacca (1946-1957).svg Malacca 19461957Became part of Malaya in 1957.
Flag of Malta (1943-1964).svg Malta 18131964Became independent in 1964 as the State of Malta.
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg Massachusetts Bay 16921776Became part of the United States of America in 1776 as the state of Massachusetts.
Flag of Mauritius (1923-1968).svg Mauritius 19031968Became independent as Mauritius in 1968.
Flag of the Natal Colony 1875-1910.svg Natal 18431910Became part of the Union of South Africa in 1910.
Dominion of Newfoundland Blue Ensign, 1870-1904.svg Newfoundland 18251907Became the Dominion of Newfoundland in 1907, and later joined Canada in 1949.
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg New Hampshire 16921776Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg New Jersey 17021776Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Flag of New South Wales.svg New South Wales 17881901Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg New York 16911776Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Flag of New Zealand.svg New Zealand 18411907Became the Dominion of New Zealand in 1907.
Flag of Nigeria (1914-1952).svg Nigeria 19141960Became independent as Nigeria in 1960.
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Norfolk Island 17881914Placed under administration of Australia in 1914 as a non-self governing territory. The island was self-governing between 1979 and 2015.
Flag of North Borneo (1948-1963).svg North Borneo 19461963Became part of Malaysia in 1963 as Sabah. Labuan separated from Sabah in 1984 to become a Federal Territory. [8]
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg North Carolina 17291776Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Flag of Penang (1946-1949).svg Penang 19461957Became part of Malaya in 1957.
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg Quebec 17631791Divided between Upper and Lower Canada and the Northwest Territory.
Flag of Queensland.svg Queensland 18591901Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
Flag of St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla.svg Saint Christopher and Nevis 18821981Became British Dependent Territory in 1981. Independent in 1983.
Flag of Sarawak (1946-1963).svg Sarawak 19461963Became part of Malaysia in 1963. [8]
Flag of Seychelles 1961-1976.gif Seychelles 19031976Separated from British Mauritius in 1903 and became a Crown Colony and became independent in 1976.
Flag of Sierra Leone 1916-1961.gif Sierra Leone 18081961Became independent as Sierra Leone in 1961.
Flag of South Australia.svg South Australia 18341901Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg South Carolina 17291776Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Flag of Southern Rhodesia (1924-1964).svg Southern Rhodesia 19231965Declared independence in 1965 as Rhodesia, which became Zimbabwe Rhodesia, independence recognized by Britain in 1980 as Zimbabwe.
Flag of Singapore (1946-1952).svg Singapore 19461963Singapore became part of Malaysia in 1963; [8] then became independent as the Republic of Singapore in 1965. [9]
19461946Labuan was incorporated into North Borneo on 15 July 1946, which became part of Malaysia in 1963. [8]
19461955 Cocos (Keeling) Islands was transferred to Australia in 1955. [10]
19461957 Christmas Island was transferred to Australia in 1957. [11]
Flag of the British Straits Settlements (1925-1946).svg Straits Settlements 17861946Penang became a separate Crown colony within the Malayan Union in 1946, which was re-organised as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and became independent in 1957; [12] later became part of Malaysia in 1963. [8]
18261946Singapore became a separate Crown colony in 1946, after the Straits Settlements was dissolved. [13]
18261946Malacca became a separate Crown colony within the Malayan Union in 1946, which re-organised as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and became independent in 1957; [12] later became part of Malaysia in 1963. [8]
18571946 Cocos (Keeling) Islands became part of the Colony of Singapore in 1946. [13]
18741937Dinding (now Manjung) became part of the Federated Malay States in 1937, which later became part of the Malayan Union in 1946; the Malayan Union became the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and became independent in 1957; [12] later became part of Malaysia in 1963. [8]
18881946 Christmas Island became part of the Colony of Singapore in 1946. [13]
19061946Labuan became part of the Colony of Singapore in 1946. [13]
Flag of Tasmania.svg Tasmania 18031901 Van Diemen's Land from 1803 to 1856; Formerly part of New South Wales from 1803 to 1825, when made an independent colony. Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Upper Canada 17911841Became part of Province of Canada in 1841.
Flag of Vancouver Island.svg Vancouver Island 18481866Merged with the Colony of British Columbia in 1866 which joined Canada.
Flag of Victoria (Australia).svg Victoria 18511901Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg Virginia 16241776Became part of the United States of America in 1776.
Flag of Western Australia.svg Western Australia 18291901 Swan River Colony from 1829 to 1832. Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg West Florida 17631783Ceded to Spain. Later became part of the United States.

^a Source: PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Great Britain Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Chronological table of the statutes . Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London part of the Office of Public Sector Information.

See also


  1. "British Overseas Territories Act 2002". Gov.Uk.
  2. Porter, p. 477.
  3. History of Parliament: Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago – Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.
  4. Mark Doyle (2018), The British Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia [2 volumes], ABC-CLIO, pp. 82–, ISBN   978-1-4408-4198-9
  5. Olson, p. 343.
  6. Jenks, p. 70.
  7. Jenks, pp. 71–4.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 See: Malaysia Act 1963
  9. See: the Independence of Singapore Agreement 1965 and the Acts of Parliament of the United KingdomSingapore Act 1966.
  10. Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955.
  11. Christmas Island (Request and Consent) Act 1957 (NO. 102, 1957).
  12. 1 2 3 See: Federation of Malaya Independence Act 1957
  13. 1 2 3 4 "The Straits Settlements is dissolved" . Retrieved 29 August 2015.

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