Monarchy in the Irish Free State

Monarchy in the Irish Free State
The royal arms of Ireland.

The Irish Free State was, in accordance with its constitution, governed formally under a form of constitutional monarchy. The British monarch was the head of state of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1931, when the Statute of Westminster came into effect, and thereafter the Irish Free State had a unique crown, though held by the same person who was sovereign for the other Dominions. Until 1936, the monarch exercised a number of important duties, including appointing the Executive Council (cabinet), dissolving the legislature and promulgating laws. Nonetheless, by convention the monarchs's role was largely ceremonial and these and his constitutional duties were largely exercised on his behalf by his official representative, the Governor-General. Most of the monarch's functions were taken from him in the final days of the Irish Free State, under a constitutional amendment adopted in 1936. The monarchy was finally abolished with the formal declaration of the Republic of Ireland.


Title of King

The monarch's title in the Irish Free State was exactly the same as it was elsewhere in the British Empire, being

  • From 1922–1927 - By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India
  • 1927–1937 - By the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India

The reason the monarch's title changed in 1927 was because the term "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland" had been superseded by the establishment of the Irish Free State and the renaming of the UK as the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". Rather than draw attention to the partition of Ireland, the monarch's title simply referred to Great Britain and Ireland. This change did not meant the monarch adopted different crowns for different realms; that development did not formally occur until 1953.

Duties and functions

  • Executive authority: The executive authority of the state was formally vested in the monarch but 'exercised' by the Governor-General, on the 'advice' of the Executive Council.
  • Appointment of the cabinet: The President of the Executive Council (prime minister) was appointed by Governor General after being selected by Dáil Éireann (the lower house of parliament). The remaining ministers were appointed on the nomination of the president, subject to a vote of consent in the Dáil.
  • Convention and dissolution of the legislature: The Governor-General, on behalf of the monarch, convened and dissolved the Oireachtas on the advice of the Executive Council.
  • Signing bills into law: The monarch was formally, along with the Dáil and the Senate, one of three tiers of the Oireachtas. No bill could become law until it received the Royal Assent, given by the Governor-General on behalf of the monarch. The Governor-General theoretically had the right to veto a bill or 'reserve' it 'for the signification of the King's pleasure', in effect postponing a decision on whether or not to enact the bill, for a maximum of one year. However neither of these two actions was ever taken.
  • Representative of the state in foreign affairs: The monarch accredited ambassadors and received the letters of credence of foreign diplomats; ministers signed international treaties in his name. The role of the monarch in the Free State's foreign affairs was the only function retained by him after the constitutional changes of 1936.
  • Appointment of judges: All judges were appointed by the Governor-General, on the advice of the Executive Council.

Oath of Allegiance

Under the Free State constitution members of the Oireachtas were required to take Oath of Allegiance to the Irish Free State with a promise of fidelity – but not an Oath of Allegiance – to the King before being permitted to assume their seats. This oath was strongly objected to by many republicans and was one of the causes of the Irish Civil War. The oath was eventually abolished in 1933. The Oath of Allegiance read as follows:

I ................ do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established, and that I will be faithful to H. M. King George V., his heirs and successors by law in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.

Major constitutional changes

Leinster House, decorated for the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911.
Within a decade it was the seat of the Oireachtas of the Irish Free State.
The first Governor-General
Timothy Michael Healy, KC (1922–1928).

Constitutional changes of 1936

In 1936 the Fianna Fáil government of Éamon de Valera carried out a major revision of the constitution aimed at all but eliminating the role of the monarch in the Irish state, by passing the Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Act 1936. This removed all explicit reference to the monarch from the constitution, abolished the office of Governor-General, and shared all of the monarch's former functions amongst various other organs of government.

However, without mentioning him by name, the amendment also introduced a provision permitting the government to "avail of" the King as a "constitutional organ" for the "appointment of diplomatic and consular agents and the conclusion of international agreements". Thus, henceforth, the monarch was still the head of state but his role was restricted to diplomatic and foreign affairs, a standard head of state role.

The monarch retained no other constitutional role internally in the life of the Irish state and was relegated in Bunreacht na hÉireann to being an unnamed "organ" used by the state should it choose in statute law to do so. It continued that organ role in the enactment of the Republic of Ireland Act, which gave the Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Act diplomatic role to the President of Ireland.

List of monarchs

List of Governors-General

See also

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Constitution of the Irish Free State — The Constitution Committee meeting at the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin. The Constitution of the Irish Free State was the first constitution of the independent Irish state. It was enacted with the adoption of the Constitution of the Irish Free State… …   Wikipedia

  • Oireachtas of the Irish Free State — Oireachtas Shaorstát Éireann Type Type Bicameral Houses Seanad Éire …   Wikipedia

  • Governor-General of the Irish Free State — The Governor General ( ga. Seanascal) was the representative of the King in the 1922 ndash;1937 Irish Free State. Until 1927 he was also the agent of the British government in the Irish state. By convention the office of Governor General was… …   Wikipedia

  • His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State — (HMGIFS) was the formal designation used by the Executive Council (cabinet) of the Irish Free State in formal correspondence it and the United Kingdom or other Commonwealth states. The Irish Free State, which was a constitutional monarchy, shared …   Wikipedia

  • Irish Free State — Infobox Former Country native name = Saorstát Éireann conventional long name = Irish Free State common name = Ireland continent = Europe region = British Isles country = Ireland year start = 1922 year end = 1937 date start = 6 December 1922 date… …   Wikipedia

  • Dáil Éireann (Irish Free State) — This article is about Dáil Éireann as it existed during the Irish Free State. For the current assembly, see Dáil Éireann. For the other historical legislature, see Dáil Éireann (Irish Republic). Dáil Éireann served as the directly elected lower… …   Wikipedia

  • Free state (government) — Free state is a term occasionally used in the official titles of some states. In principle the title asserts and emphasises the freedom of the state in question, but what this actually means varies greatly in different contexts: *Sometimes it… …   Wikipedia

  • Monarchy of the United Kingdom — This article is about the monarchy of the United Kingdom. For information on the other countries which share the same person as monarch, see Commonwealth realm. For the current Queen of the United Kingdom, see Elizabeth II. British sovereign… …   Wikipedia

  • Congo Free State — État indépendant du Congo Personal union with the Kingdom of Belgium ← …   Wikipedia

  • Monarchy of Ireland — A monarchical polity has existed in Ireland during three periods of its history, finally ending in 1801. The designation King of Ireland (Irish: Rí na hÉireann) and Queen (regnant) of Ireland was used during these periods. Since 1949, the only… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”