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Crown colony, dependent territory or royal colony were dependent territories under the administration of United Kingdom overseas territories that were controlled by the British Government. As such they are examples of dependencies that are under colonial rule. Crown colonies were renamed "British Dependent Territories" in 1981 with the exception of Hong Kong, which remained a Crown colony. Since 2002, Crown colonies have been known officially as British Overseas Territories.[1]

In such territories, residents did not elect members of the British parliament. A Crown colony was usually administered by a governor who directly controlled the executive and was appointed by "the Crown" — a term that in practice usually means the UK government, acting on behalf of the monarch. However, the term "Crown colony" has sometimes been used of entities that have elected governments and partial autonomy; these are also known as self-governing colonies.


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.[2]

Executive 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.[3] After that time it was more broadly applied to every British territory other than British India[4], 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.[5]

By the mid-19th century, the monarch was appointing colonial governors only on the advice of the Secretary of State for the Colonies.[6]

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.


There were three types of Crown colonies as of 1918, with differing degrees of autonomy:

Crown colonies with representative councils such as Bermuda, Jamaica, Ceylon, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Fiji contained two legislative chambers, consisting of Crown-appointed and locally elected members.

Crown colonies with nominated councils such as British Honduras, Sierra Leone, Grenada 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.

Crown colonies ruled directly by a governor such as Basutoland,[7] Gibraltar, Saint Helena and Singapore were fewest in number and had the least autonomy.


The following list includes territories that belonged by settlement, conquest or annexation to the British Crown or to an independent Commonwealth nation. [[CITE|a|undefined]]

^a Source: [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x||h12|w12]] This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Great Britain Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Chronological table of the statutes. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London part of the Office of Public Sector Information.

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