Crown land

Crown land

In Commonwealth realms, Crown land is an area belonging to the monarch ("the Crown"), the equivalent of an entailed estate that passed with the monarchy and could not be alienated from it.

In the United Kingdom and during the British Empire, the hereditary revenues of Crown lands were a feature until the start of the reign of George III when the Crown Estate was surrendered to the Parliament of Great Britain in return for a fixed civil list payment – the monarch retains the income from the Duchy of Lancaster.

In the United States the feudal concept of Crown land and Crown Estate was repudiated during the American Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783). The legislative process of the Continental Congress (1774 – 1789) produced a system that transferred individual state land claims into a repository of land held by the federal government, to be used for the benefit of the nation as a whole. The result was land held in the public domain by the federal government. The formal process was initiated in 1780 and land was added to the public domain from 1782 onward. Once land was a part of the U.S. public domain, it was thereafter held in allodial title, meaning that it could not be alienated from federal authority, but might be removed from the public domain (as in the creation of a new state) or transferred and owned in fee simple.

In the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its predecessor the Austrian Empire Crown lands were alternative administrative units to duchies, as in the Kingdom of Poland and its successor, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.



In Australia, public lands are considered to belong to the Crown. This includes land for nature conservation and various other governmental purposes, as well as vacant land. Public lands comprise around 23% of Australian land, of which the largest single category is vacant land belonging to the Crown, comprising 12.5% of the land.[1]

Crown land is held in the 'right of the Crown' of either an individual State or the Commonwealth of Australia; there is not a single 'Crown' (as a legal governmental entity) in Australia (see The Crown). Various States have adopted differing policies towards the sale and use of their Crown lands; for instance, New South Wales passed a controversial reform in 2005 requiring Crown lands to be rated at market value.[2]

Crown land is used for such things as airports (Commonwealth) and public utilities (usually State).

In Tasmania, the management of Crown land is governed by the Crown Lands Act 1976.

Because the mainland area of the Commonwealth of Australia has not increased since federation, the only crown land held by the Commonwealth government consists of land in the Northern Territory (surrendered by South Australia) the Australian Capital Territory, and small areas acquired for airports or defence. This contrasts with the United States, where the expansion of the country since federation in 1787 means that most of the public land, except for public land in the original 13 states and Texas, is owned by the federal government.


The term "crown land" (German: Kronland), in Austria–Hungary (1867–1918), was applied to the constituent units of the Austrian part of Austria-Hungary (Cisleithania).


The term crown land, extends to all land that is under the control or ownership of The Crown (a.k.a the Government).[3] This can pertain to land seized by the government, (either through eminent domain or due to criminal activity), or toward lands with backed taxes. The term Crown lands has been used in relation to government owned farms, beaches, and other land areas also maintained by the National Housing Corporation.[4] The Government does not allow private ownership of Barbados' 97 km. of coastal beaches in the country, and all areas below the high-tide watermark in the country are considered specifically as "Crown land".


Within Canada, Crown Land is a designated area belonging to the Queen in Right of Canada,[5] the equivalent of an entailed estate that passes with the monarchy and cannot be alienated from it; thus, per constitutional convention, these lands cannot be unilaterally sold by the monarch, instead passing on to the next king or queen unless the sovereign is advised otherwise by the ministers of the Crown. Though the Canadian monarch owns all Crown Land in the country, paralleling the "division" of the Crown amongst the federal and provincial governments, Crown Land is similarly divied so that some lands within the province are administered by the provincial Crown, whereas others are under the federal Crown. About 89% of Canada's land area (8,886,356 km²) is Crown Land, which may either be federal (41%) or provincial (48%); the remaining 11% is privately-owned.[6] Most federal Crown land is in the Canadian territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon), and is administered by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Only 4% of land in the provinces is federally-controlled, largely in the form of National Parks, Indian reserves, or Canadian Forces bases. In contrast, provinces hold much of their territory as provincial Crown Land, which may be held as Provincial Parks or wilderness.

Crown Land provides the country and the provinces with the majority of their profits from natural resources, largely but not exclusively provincial, rented for logging and mineral exploration rights; revenues flow to the relevant government and may constitute a major income stream, such as in Alberta. Crown land may also be rented by individuals wishing to build homes or cottages.


In the province of Alberta, Crown Land is territory registered in the name of "Her Majesty the Queen in right of Alberta as Represented by [specific Minister of the Crown]", and remains under the administration of the mentioned minister until the land is sold or transferred via legislation,[7] such as an Order in Council.[8] Approximately 60% of land in Alberta is public land owned by the Alberta government.[9]

British Columbia

94% of the land in British Columbia is Provincial Crown land, 2% of which is covered by fresh water. Federal Crown lands make up a further 1% of the province, including Indian Reserves, Defence Lands and Federal Harbours, while 5% is privately owned. The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands issues Crown land tenures and sells Crown land on behalf of the Province of British Columbia.[10]

Newfoundland and Labrador

95% of Newfoundland and Labrador is provincial Crown Land.[6]

New Brunswick

Currently, 48% of New Brunswick's territory is Crown Land,[11] used for such things as for conservation projects, resource exploitation and recreation activities. However, through treaties between First Nations and the Crown in Right of Canada, the provincial Crown grants or denies long term use of Crown Lands by aboriginals, as per the treaties.


By the Crown Lands Act,[12] the Lieutenant Governor in Council alone has the ability to augment or disperse Crown Land, and to determine the price of any Crown Land being bought or leased. Crown Land is used for varying purposes, including agriculture, wind farming,[13][14] and cottages, while other areas are set aside for research, environmental protection, public recreation, and resource management.[14] Approximately 95% of the province's forests sit within provincial Crown land.[15]


The crown lands, crown estate, royal domain or (in French) domaine royal of France refers to the lands and fiefs directly possessed by the kings of France. Before the reign of Henry IV, the domaine royal did not encompass the entirety of the territory of the kingdom of France and for much of the Middle Ages significant portions of the kingdom were direct possessions of other feudal lords.

In the tenth and 11th centuries, the first Capetians—while being rulers of France—were among the least powerful of the great feudal lords of France in terms of territory possessed. Patiently, through the use of feudal law (and, in particular, the confiscation of fiefs from rebellious vassals), skillful marriages with female inheritors of large fiefs, and even by purchase, the kings of France were able to increase the royal domain, which, by the 16th century, began to coincide with the entire kingdom. However the medieval system of appanage (a concession of a fief by the sovereign to his younger sons and their sons after them, although they could be reincorporated if the last lord had no male heirs) alienated large territories from the royal domain and created dangerous rival territories (especially the Duchy of Burgundy from the 14th to the 15th centuries).

Poland and Lithuania

Similar use: this section is about the "public, state properties" of Polish and "Polish-Lithuanian" Kings, for unit of administrative division inter alia in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth see: Crown (not to be mistaken with "Crown lands").

Legal condition

The Crown lands were known there as królewszczyzny (sing. królewszczyzna) which translates to regality or royal land.

In the Kingdom of Poland under the rules of Piast then Jagiellonian dynasties the institution of crown lands was similar to those in Great Britain or Austria-Hungary, the lands were the property of the monarch or dynasty.

Since 15th century the properties have often been leased, gifted or hocked to the members of nobility. Those nobles who had received the privilege of administering the Crown lands (and thus keeping most of its profits) had the title of Starosta. Once given a Crown land, one had the right to keep it 'for life'.

Families of Starostas often wanted to unlawfully keep the royal properties, and that led to common abuses of law (see following sections).

After the end of Kingdom in Poland the era of new political system called "Republic of szlachta (nobility)" started in late 16th century already in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

In the late 16th century, because of reform and the introduction of the royal election of Polish kings, the royal lands became public property or state property.

Formally (compare with the following sections) "royal lands" could form about 15–20% of Poland (later, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), and were divided into two parts:

  • the table lands (dobra stołowe or ekonomie), which were providing money for the king's personal treasure and expenses, among them the support of the army (wojsko kwarciane)
  • the rest, which the king was obliged to lease to the outstanding members of the nobility.

Among the largest Crown lands in the 16th and 17th centuries were the territories of Malbork and Wielkorządy with Niepołomice, Sambor in the Crown of the Polish Kingdom.

Monarch's economies in, as it was called, "Republic" of Lithuania (Grand Duchy of Lithuania) were: biggest Šiauliai economy, Alytus economy, also economies in Grodno and Mohylew.

The legal conditions of peasants were better in the Crown lands than on the hereditary estates of the nobility, as there were fewer serfdom obligations.

Factual condition in the Crown (here: administrative unit)

Mostly due to lack of constant dynasty in Poland (see: Royal elections in Poland), royal lands were under notorious, often illegal, control of powerful local magnates, sometimes even semi-independent from the state.

Ruch egzekucyjny (execution movement) of the late 16th century, led by Lord Grand Chancellor of the Crown Jan Zamoyski (interestingly also against the interests of his own family), put as one of its goals the 'execution of lands', i.e. return of all Crown lands, which were often illegally held by next generations of Starostine families. In 1562–1563 they forced most of the Crown land in the Crown of the Polish Kingdom to be returned to the monarch, however later the whole cycle repeated. In the following centuries Ruch egzekucyjny (lit. execution movement) and subsequently elected Kings were gradually weakened because szlachta achieved more and more privileges – the "Golden" Liberty.

Eventually the nobility controlled most of the Crown lands. People without a formal title of nobility inherited or granted were not allow to be infeudated with regalities.

After the First Partition of Poland, which was a tremendous experience for most Polish nobility, crown lands were reformed in 1775, lessening the abuses of the nobility, and the Great Sejm of 17881792 decided to put them on sale, to raise funds for reforms and modernising the army.

After the following partitions of Poland in 1795 the "royal lands" were directly annexed by the partitioning powers.

Factual condition in Lithuania

In the Great Duchy of Lithuania political nation did not follow experience of neighbouring Poland. Lithuanian magnates retained such lands in their hands.


Prior to the Overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy, the Hawaiian monarchs had access to 1.8 million acres (7,300 km²), the private lands of Kamehameha III which he set aside for the dignity of the royal office for the ruler of the Hawaiian Monarchy on March 8, 1848 during the Great Mahele. Kamehameha III and his successors made these lands their private property, selling, leasing or mortgaging at their enjoyment. At the death of Kamehameha IV, it was decided by the Supreme Court that under the above mentioned instrument executed by Kamehameha III, reserving the Crown Lands, and under the confirmatory Act of June 7, 1848, "the inheritance is limited to the successors to the throne," "the wearers of the crown which the conqueror had won," and that at the same time "each successive possessor may regulate and dispose of the same according to his will and pleasure as private property, in like manner as was done by Kamehameha III." Afterwards an Act was passed January 3, 1865, "relieve the Royal Domain from encumbrances and to render the same inalienable." This Act provided for the redemption of the mortgages on the estate, and enacted that the remaining lands are to be "henceforth inalienable and shall descend to the heirs and successors of the Hawaiian Crown forever," and that "it shall not be lawful hereafter to lease said lands for any terms of years to exceed thirty." The Board of Commissioners of Crown Lands shall consist of three persons to be appointed by His Majesty the King, two of whom shall be appointed from among the members of His Cabinet Council, and serve without remuneration, and the other shall act as Land Agent, and shall be paid out of the revenues of the said lands, such sum as may be agreed to by the King."[16]

The lands were held by Queen Lili'uokalani before January 17, 1893. On this date, the government of the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown by American and European residents of Hawai`i, with the help of the US Military and with the enforced abdication of the queen, the lands "vested in the king for the purpose of maintaining the royal state and dignity"[17] were taken in charge by the provisional and republican governments. In 1910, Liliuokalani, the former Queen, unsuccessfully attempted to sue the United States for the loss of the Hawaiian Crown Land. On Tuesday, March 31, 2009, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, reversing the Hawaii Supreme Court’s holding that the federally enacted Apology Resolution bars the State of Hawaii from selling to third parties any land held in public trust until the claims of native Hawaiians to the lands have been resolved. The Court first held that it has jurisdiction to review the Hawaii Supreme Court’s opinion because it rested on the Apology Resolution. It then found the Hawaii Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Apology Resolution to be erroneous, and held that federal law does not bar the State from selling land held in public trust. Accordingly, it remanded the case for the Hawaii Supreme Court to determine if Hawaiian law alone supports the same outcome.

United Kingdom and its predecessor states

See also


  1. ^ Land Tenure at Geoscience Australia
  2. ^ Crown land rent changes spark concerns for clubs, ABC News, 10 November 2005
  3. ^ Barbados Government: Crown Lands (Vesting and Disposal) – CAP.225
  4. ^ Barbados Advocate. 2008-11-09. Retrieved 2009-06-15. 
  5. ^ Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. "About INAC > Sectors and Regions > Welcome to INAC NT Region > Crown Land Management > Land Management and Ownership > Federal Crown Land". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 2 October 2009. 
  6. ^ a b V.P. NEIMANIS. "Crown Land". The Canadian Encyclopedia: Geography. Historica Foundation of Canada. Retrieved 2007-02-12. 
  7. ^ Elizabeth II (12 November 2004). Alberta Land Titles Procedures Manual. Background (CRG-3 ed.). Edmonton: Alberta Queen's Printer. p. 1. Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  8. ^ (Elizabeth II, Regisration Procedure A.1)
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Minister of Agriculture and Lands; Crown Land Fact Sheet.
  11. ^ Mitchell; Simon, J.; Who Owns Crown Lands?; Falls Brook Centre; June, 2003
  12. ^ Crown Lands Act; C.C.S.M. c. C340
  13. ^ Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives: Agricultural Crown Lands Leasing Program
  14. ^ a b Government of Manitoba: Some Questions and Answers Regarding Manitoba's Crown Land Policies for Wind Farms
  15. ^ Manitoba Wildlands: Forests
  16. ^ Hawaiian Kingdom – History of Land titles
  17. ^ Hawaii's Royal Family Official Site Crown Lands

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Crown land — Crown Crown (kroun), n. [OE. corone, coroun, crune, croun, OF. corone, corune, F. couronne, fr. L. corona crown, wreath; akin to Gr. korw nh anything curved, crown; cf. also L. curvus curved, E. curve, curb, Gael. cruinn round, W. crwn. Cf.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • crown land — n. 1. land owned by the crown, the income from which (or, in Britain, a fixed payment by Parliament in place of it) goes to the reigning monarch 2. land under control of the government in certain countries and colonies of the Commonwealth …   English World dictionary

  • crown land — crown′ land n. gov land belonging to the crown, the revenues from which go to the reigning sovereign • Etymology: 1615–25 …   From formal English to slang

  • Crown land — noun land that belongs to the Crown • Regions: ↑United Kingdom, ↑UK, ↑U.K., ↑Britain, ↑United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, ↑Great Britain • Hypernyms: ↑estate, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • crown land — valstybinė žemė statusas Aprobuotas sritis žemės tvarkymas ir žemės reforma apibrėžtis Lietuvos Respublikos žemės fondo dalis, kuri nėra privati nuosavybė (nesuteikta, neperduota nuosavybėn, grąžinta ar parduota) ir pagal įstatymus nepriklauso… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • Crown Land — Kronland (engl. crown land) bezeichnet in Kanada jene Landflächen, die entweder als Bundesterritorien der Zentralregierung unterstehen (Yukon Territorium, Nordwest Territorien und Nunavut; 41% des Landes) oder auf dem Gebiet einer der zehn… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • crown land — 1. land belonging to the crown, the revenue of which goes to the reigning sovereign. 2. Also, crownland. one of the administrative divisions of the former empire of Austria Hungary. [1615 25] * * * ▪ British land tenure       in Great Britain,… …   Universalium

  • crown land — noun Date: 1613 1. land belonging to the crown and yielding revenues that the reigning sovereign is entitled to 2. public land in some British dominions or colonies …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Crown land — /kraʊn ˈlænd/ (say krown land) noun (sometimes lower case) land belonging to the government …  

  • crown-land — …   Useful english dictionary

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