A Crown colony or royal colony was a colony administered by the Crown within the English and later British Empire. There was usually a governor to represent the Crown, appointed by the British monarch on the advice of the UK Government, with or without the assistance of a local council. In some cases, this council was split into two: an executive council and a legislative council, and the executive council was similar to the Privy Council that advises the monarch. Members of executive councils were appointed by the governors, and British citizens resident in Crown colonies either had no representation in local government, or limited representation in a lower house. In several Crown colonies, this limited representation grew over time. As the House of Commons of the British Parliament has never included seats for any of the colonies, there was no direct representation in the sovereign government for British subjects or citizens residing in Crown colonies.
The administration of Crown colonies changed over time and in the 1800s some became, with a loosening of the power of royal governors, self-governing colonies, within which the sovereign state (the UK Government) delegated legislation for most local internal matters of governance to elected assemblies, with consent of the governor. Elected lower houses had their beginnings in the House of Burgesses of the Colony of Virginia in 1619 and the House of Assembly of the Parliament of Bermuda in 1620. While initially limited in government even with an elected lower house, over the centuries in some Crown colonies, more independent authority was given.
All remaining British colonies, whether Crown (such as Hong Kong and the Falkland Islands) or self-governing (such as Bermuda), were renamed "British Dependent Territories" from 1 January 1983 under the British Nationality Act 1981. Many British citizens in the colonies (with the exceptions of the Falkland Islanders and subsequently the Gibraltarians) found that their "Citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies" [clarification needed] From 2002, the dependent territories have been known officially as British Overseas Territories.
Early English colonies were often proprietary colonies, usually established and administered by companies under charters granted by the monarch. 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.
Executive crown 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.)
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. After that time it was more broadly applied to every British territory other than British India, 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.
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. In 2002, the British Overseas Territories Act 2002 further changed their name to British Overseas Territories.
There were three types of Crown colony as of 1918, with differing degrees of autonomy:
Crown colonies with nominated councils, such as British Honduras, Sierra Leone, British Windward Islands 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.
The "from" column lists the year the colony began to be administered by the Crown. These colonies may have existed under a different type of English colonial administration before then.
|Name of colony||from||to||Reason for change of status|
|Aden||1937||1967||Became part of the Federation of South Arabia.|
|Akrotiri and Dhekelia||1960||1982||Became British Dependent Territory in 1983.|
|Anguilla||1980||1982||Became British Dependent Territory in 1983.|
|Antigua||1663||1967||Became an associated state.|
|Ashanti||1902||1957||Became part of the dominion named Ghana upon its establishment in 1957.|
|Bahamas||1718||1973||Became an independent Commonwealth realm.|
|Barbados||1663||1966||Became an independent Commonwealth realm.|
|Basutoland||1884||1966||Became independent as Lesotho in 1966.|
|Bermuda||1684||1982||Became British Dependent Territory in 1983.|
|British Antarctic Territory||1962||1982||Became British Dependent Territory in 1983.|
|British Bechuanaland||1885||1895||Became part of British Cape Colony in 1895.|
|British Columbia||1866||1871||Became part of Canada in 1871.|
|British Guiana||1831||1966||Became independent as Guyana in 1966.|
|British Honduras (renamed Belize in 1973)||1884||1981||Became independent (as Belize) in 1981.|
|British Indian Ocean Territory||1965||1982||Became British Dependent Territory in 1983.|
|Burma||1937||1948||Separated from British India in 1937 and became a Crown colony. Became independent in 1948 as Burma (later Myanmar).|
|United Province of Canada||1841||1867||Became part of Canada in 1867.|
|Cape Colony||1806||1910||Became part of the Union of South Africa in 1910.|
|Cayman Islands||1962||1982||Became British Dependent Territory in 1983.|
|Ceylon||1815||1948||Became independent in 1948 as Dominion of Ceylon (later Sri Lanka).|
|Christmas Island||1958||1958||Became a territory of Australia|
|Cyprus||1914||1960||Became independent as Cyprus in 1960.|
|Dominica||1763||1967||Became an associated state.|
|East Florida||1763||1783||Ceded to Spain. Later became part of the United States.|
|Falkland Islands||1841||1982||Became a British Dependent Territory in 1983.|
|Fiji||1874||1970||Became independent as Fiji in 1970|
|Gambia Colony||1888||1965||Became independent as The Gambia in 1965.|
|Georgia||1755||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|Gibraltar||1713||1982||Became British Dependent Territory in 1983.|
|Gilbert and Ellice Islands||1916||1976||Separate Gilbert Islands and Tuvalu colonies|
|Gilbert Islands||1976||1979||Became independent as Kiribati|
|Gold Coast||1821||1957||Became independent in 1957 with Ashanti and Northern Territories of the Gold Coast as Ghana.|
|Grenada||1763||1967||Became an associated state.|
|Heligoland||1814||1890||Ceded to the German Empire.|
|Hong Kong||1843||1982||Imperial Japan military occupied 1941–1945. Reclassified as a British Dependent Territory in 1983. Transferred to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.|
|Jamaica||1655||1962||Became independent in 1962 as Jamaica.|
|Kenya||1920||1963||United with the Kenya Protectorate in 1963 to form the independent country of Kenya.|
|Labuan||1846||1890||Administered by British North Borneo Company from 1890 to 1904.|
|Lagos||1862||1906||Became part of Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria in 1906.|
|Lower Canada||1791||1841||Became part of Province of Canada in 1841.|
|Malacca||1946||1957||Became part of Malaya in 1957.|
|Malta||1813||1964||Became independent in 1964 as the State of Malta.|
|Massachusetts Bay||1691||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|Mauritius||1810||1968||Became independent as Mauritius in 1968.|
|Montserrat||1636||1982||Became British Dependent Territory in 1983.|
|Natal||1843||1910||Became part of the Union of South Africa in 1910.|
|Newfoundland||1825||1907||Became the Dominion of Newfoundland in 1907, and later joined Canada in 1949.|
|New Hampshire||1692||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|New Ireland||1779||1783||Ceded to the United States of America after Revolutionary War and again after War of 1812 (1814-1815).|
|New Jersey||1702||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|New South Wales||1788||1901||Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.|
|New York||1685||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|New Zealand||1841||1907||Became the Dominion of New Zealand in 1907.|
|Nigeria||1914||1960||Became independent as Nigeria in 1960.|
|Norfolk Island||1788||1914||Placed under administration of Australia in 1914 as a non-self governing territory. The island was self-governing between 1979 and 2015.|
|North Borneo||1946||1963||Became part of Malaysia in 1963 as Sabah. Labuan separated from Sabah in 1984 to become a Federal Territory.|
|North Carolina||1729||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|Nova Scotia||1710||1867||Became part of Canada in 1867.|
|Orange River Colony||1900||1910||Became part of the Union of South Africa in 1910.|
|Pitcairn Islands||1887||1982||Became British Dependent Territory in 1983.|
|Penang||1946||1957||Became part of Malaya in 1957.|
|Quebec||1763||1791||Divided between Upper and Lower Canada and the Northwest Territory.|
|Queensland||1859||1901||Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.|
|Saint Christopher, Nevis and Anguilla||1882||1967||Became an associated state.|
|Saint Helena||1659||1982||Became British Dependent Territory in 1983.|
|Saint Lucia||1814||1967||Became an associated state.|
|Saint Vincent||1776||1969||Became an associated state.|
|Sarawak||1946||1963||Became part of Malaysia in 1963.|
|Seychelles||1903||1976||Separated from British Mauritius in 1903 and became a Crown Colony and became independent in 1976.|
|Sierra Leone||1808||1961||Became independent as Sierra Leone in 1961.|
|Singapore||1946||1963||Became an autonomous state within Malaysia in 1963 and fully independent in 1965.|
|South Australia||1834||1901||Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.|
|South Carolina||1729||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|Southern Nigeria||1906||1914||Part of the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. Merged with Northern Nigeria Protectorate as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914.|
|Southern Rhodesia||1923||1965/1980||Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965 as Rhodesia; formally reverted to colonial status in 1979 as Southern Rhodesia; independence granted in 1980 as Zimbabwe|
|Straits Settlements||1867||1946||Imperial Japan military occupied 1941–1945. Separated into the Crown colonies of Penang, Malacca and Singapore.|
|Tasmania||1825||1901||Named Van Diemen's Land until 1856. Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.|
|Transvaal Colony||1877||1910||Became part of the Union of South Africa in 1910.|
|Tobago||1877||1889||Became part of Trinidad and Tobago|
|Trinidad||1802||1889||Became part of Trinidad and Tobago|
|Trinidad and Tobago||1889||1962||Became independent in 1962|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||1962||1982||Became British Dependent Territory in 1983.|
|Tuvalu||1976||1978||Became an independent Commonwealth realm.|
|Upper Canada||1791||1841||Became part of Province of Canada in 1841.|
|Vancouver Island||1848||1866||Merged with the Colony of British Columbia in 1866 which joined Canada.|
|Victoria||1851||1901||Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.|
|Virgin Islands||1713||1982||Became British Dependent Territory in 1983.|
|Virginia||1624||1776||Became part of the United States of America in 1776.|
|Western Australia||1829||1901||Swan River Colony from 1829 to 1832. Became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.|
|West Florida||1763||1783||Ceded to Spain. Later became part of the United States.|
- British Empire
- British overseas territories
- British protectorate
- Colonial Office
- Crown dependency
- Direct rule over Northern Ireland
- Legislative council
- Proprietary colony
- Self-governing colony
- "British Overseas Territories Act 2002". Gov.Uk. Archived from the original on 30 January 2016. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- Porter, p. 477.
- History of Parliament: Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago Archived 13 June 2017 at the Wayback Machine – Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.
- Mark Doyle (2018), The British Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia [2 volumes], ABC-CLIO, pp. 82–, ISBN 978-1-4408-4198-9, archived from the original on 29 July 2020, retrieved 13 May 2019
- Olson, p. 343.
- Jenks, p. 70.
- Jenks, pp. 71–4.
- See: Malaysia Act 1963
- "The Straits Settlements is dissolved". Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
- Ehrlich, AS (1974). Human Organization, 33.2. Archived from the original on 1 October 2022. Retrieved 13 May 2019 – via ProQuest.
- Ehrlich, Josef (1916). Economic protectionism, Vol.6. Clarendon press. Archived from the original on 1 October 2022. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
- Jenks, Edward (1918). The Government of the British Empire. Little, Brown, and Company.
- Jenks, Edward (1918). The Government of the British Empire. Little, Brown, and Company.
- Olson, James (1996). Historical Dictionary of the British Empire. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-29366-X.
- Porter, Andrew (1998). The Nineteenth Century, The Oxford History of the British Empire Volume III. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-924678-5.
- Wrong, Hume (1923). "The Old Representative System: The Change To Crown Colony Government". Government of the West Indies. England: Oxford University Press. p. 71. ISBN 1-113-74149-X. Archived from the original on 8 April 2022. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
The phrase 'Crown Colony Government' is used with various meanings. In the broadest, and perhaps most correct, sense it is applied to all the colonies in which the Crown retains the real control of the executive (i.e. to all the West Indian colonies). By both official and common usage, however, it is often narrowed as to exclude colonies with elected Assemblies, though without a responsible executive.