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What is the queen's nationality?

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2009-10-27 20:06:49
2009-10-27 20:06:49

This is a very complicated query with a possibly confusing answer, which requires the combination of the rules of British, international and Commonwealth law.

Since she was born in the UK, The Queen is a British national at any rate. This is, however, not a special legal status. Normally, when speaking of a British national, we mean British citizens, because those have, in legal terms, British nationality. Is The Queen a citizen? No, she isn't. As the Sovereign, the British are her subjects and citizens of 'her' Kingdom. In this sense the Queen, as Sovereign, is considered above such 'mundane' legal terms as nationality and citizenship. We can only say the Queen is British or a British national by logic and by reasoning, but not in terms of law. So, what's on The Queen's passport under "nationality"? Well, as passports are issued under the authority of the Royal prerogative, i.e. issued by the Queen's ministers, she does not dispose of one. The question of the legal nationality of the head of state never arises. Unless, of course, she were to abdicate. In that case. she should become a British citizen and automatically receive British nationality (because in this case she would become her son's subject).

Those are the rules of domestic common law procedures. In terms of international and EC law, the Queen is deemed to be a British national - the only alternative in international law being stateless, and this would not be welcomed by either The Queen or the international community. Confusingly, as British national in EU law the Queen is equally deemed an EU *citizen*, which does not, however, affect her role as Sovereign (cf. http:/www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/Queenandthelaw/HowUKandEUlawaffectTheQueen.aspx).

The question probably relates to Her Majesty's role as head of state of 16 independent nations as well. The Queen of Canada, for instance, is an office completely separated from the office of Queen of the United Kingdom. Canada is, just as the UK, a Commonwealth Realm of which The Queen is head of state. And in these countries the same provisions as in the UK apply. The Queen can, although not born there, be considered a Jamaican national, although again, this is legally unimportant. As Sovereign of Jamaica, she is the head of the nation and not the nation itself (and as such not a national in terms of law). I'm beginning to repeat myself once more, but if the Queen were to abdicate she would almost certainly not become a Jamaican/Canadian citizen unless (a) she had expressly told her ministers to grant her the respective legal status after abdication, or (b) asked the new monarch to confer upon her those rights in accordance with relevant Acts and common law principles. (see. for example, the memorandum published by the Australian Parliament - "Is the Queen an Australian Citizen?" It doesn't tell you a lot, but it makes it outlines the distinction between subject and Sovereign quite well.)

So, the Queen does not, in domestic law, have British nationality legallyas long as she is Sovereign. Being the British head of state, she can, however, be called a British national in terms of politics and EC law as well.
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