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United Kingdom: Dependencies of the Crown

Last modified: 2003-01-11 by andré coutanche
Keywords: united kingdom | channel islands | isle of man | guernsey | jersey |
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Like the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man has an interesting constitutional position. They are not part of the U.K. but are dependencies of the English Crown. Effectively, they are independent states in most matters. The Manx Parliament, Tynwald, was established by Norse Vikings over 1000 years ago and is the oldest functioning parliamentary democracy in the world.

Stuart A. Notholt

Constitutionally, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are dependencies of the Crown - they are not, and never have been, crown colonies. Confusingly, the remaining British crown colonies are now called "dependent territories".

Stuart A. Notholt, 1 March 1996

Jersey and Guernsey are separate bailiwicks (i.e. a place administered by a bailiff). They are crown dependencies of the British monarch but are neither part of the United Kingdom nor colonies of the U.K. Their constitutions are semi-feudal with the bailiff (a Crown appointee) heading the States (legislature) and Royal Court of each island. In addition both islands have a Lieutenant-Governor who is the Crown's representative on the island and commander-in-chief.

Strictly speaking, they are the part of the Duchy of Normandy that remained under the English Crown - when islanders toast the monarch they do so as "The Queen, our Duke" and they sometimes speak of England being a dependency of theirs, rather than the other way round! There is also a lot of mostly good-natured rivalry between the islands. It is said that "Red sky at night is a Guernseyman's delight" - because he thinks Jersey is on fire ...

Roy Stilling, 14 March 1996

In the Channel Islands where the original Norman French dialects have been completely replaced by English, the people do regard themselves as being as British as a resident of the mainland. My understanding is that the people of the Isle of Man do have rather more feeling of distinct nationhood, and there have been efforts in recent years to revive the extinct Manx Gaelic language.

It is a moot point what would happen if the monarchy ended peacefully on the mainland. It seems to me that they could legally continue the monarchy (and end their association with the mainland) if they wanted to, but I would suspect that they wouldn't. However, the Isle of Man has made noises in recent years of seeking full independence if it gets forced by the U.K. government to apply stricter controls on its financial industry.

Roy Stilling, 29 December 2002

"Channel Islands" is essentially a geographical expression; there is no such political or administrative entity. The Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey are totally separate from each other.

The two bailiwicks, and the Isle of Man, are Dependencies of the Crown. As has been correctly stated, they are not part of the U.K., nor, therefore, the European Union - they are among the many territories which have special arrangements negotiated with the E.U. by their 'parent' states.

The government of the U.K. is responsible for the defence and foreign relations of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. In all other respects, including the setting of taxes, they are self-governing, each with their own parliaments - the States of Guernsey, the States of Jersey and Tynwald in Man. However, they all use the pound sterling as currency though they issue their own notes and coins. The day to day relationship between the islands' governments and the U.K. is via the U.K. Home Office - what most other countries call the Ministry of the Interior.

Each of the three territories has a resident representative of the Queen. This person is called the Lieutenant Governor and his (so far, I think, they have all been male) position is even more ceremonial than that of the Queen in the U.K.

My understanding is that, while Man's relationship with the U.K. is indeed very similar to that of the two bailiwicks, it has been arrived at via a different route and has been more different in the past.

Channel Islanders regard themselves as British (though never English), though many of the institutions have no parallel in the U.K.

The Channel Islands are not colonies of the U.K. They became attached to the British crown (at the time, the English crown) when William of Normandy became King of England in 1066. The joke in the Channel Islands is that, if there is a colonial relationship with the U.K., it is the other way around - in 1066 they were on the winning side!

André Coutanche, 29 December 2002