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Crown colony

A Crown colony, also known in the 17th century as royal colony, was a type of colonial administration of the English and later British Empire.[1][2]

Crown, or royal, colonies were ruled by a governor appointed by the Monarch. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Sovereign appointed royal governors on the advice of the Secretary of State for the Colonies.[3] Under the name of "royal colony", the first of what would later become known as Crown colonies was the English Colony of Virginia in the present-day United States, after the Crown took control from the Virginia Company in 1624.[4]

Until the mid-nineteenth century, the term "Crown colony" was primarily used to refer to those colonies which had been acquired through wars, such as Trinidad and Tobago[5] and British Guiana, but after that time it was more broadly applied to any colony other than the Presidencies and provinces of British India and the colonies of settlement, such as The Canadas, Newfoundland, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and New Zealand, later to become the Dominions.[6]

The term continued to be used up until 1981, when the British Nationality Act 1981 reclassified the remaining British colonies as "British Dependent Territories". From 2002 they have been known as British Overseas Territories.


Types of Crown colony

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

Crown colonies with representative councils such as Bermuda, Jamaica, Ceylon, British Columbia and Fiji contained one or two legislative chambers, consisting of Crown appointed and some 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. It should be noted that Hong Kong became a Crown colony with a representative council following the introduction of election for the Hong Kong Legislative Council in 1985.

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.

See also

  • Direct rule
  • Crown dependency
  • Self-governing colony
  • Colonial Office
  • British overseas territories
  • British Empire



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