Crown land, also known as royal domain or demesne, is a territorial
area belonging to the monarch, who personifies the Crown. It is the
equivalent of an entailed estate and passes with the monarchy, being
inseparable from it. Today, in Commonwealth realms such as Canada and
Australia, crown land is considered public land and is apart from the
monarch's private estate.
In Britain, the hereditary revenues of Crown lands provided income for
the monarch until the start of the reign of George III, when the
profits from the
Crown Estate were 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.
5.2 British Columbia
5.3 Newfoundland and Labrador
5.4 New Brunswick
5.5 Nova Scotia
7 Poland and Lithuania
7.1 Legal condition
7.2 Factual condition in the Crown (here: administrative unit)
7.3 Factual condition in Lithuania
10 Hong Kong
11 United Kingdom and its predecessor states
12 See also
14 External links
In Australia, public lands are referred to as Crown land. Public lands
includes land set aside for nature conservation and various government
or public purposes, as well as vacant land. Public lands comprise
around 23% of Australian land, of which the largest single category is
vacant land, comprising 12.5% of the land. 
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 differing policies towards the sale and use of Crown lands
within the State; for instance,
New South Wales
New South Wales passed a controversial
reform in 2005 requiring Crown lands to be rated at market value.
In New South Wales, over half of all land is Crown land.
Crown land is used for such things as airports, military grounds
(Commonwealth) and public utilities (usually State).
Crown land is managed under the Crown Lands Act 1976. In
South Australia, the relevant Act is the Crown Land Management Act
2009. In Victoria, it is the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 and the
Land Act 1958.
Most public lands in Australia are held by the Crown in the right of
each State. The only crown land held by the Commonwealth consists of
land in the Northern Territory (surrendered by South Australia), the
Australian Capital Territory, Jervis Bay Territory, and small areas
acquired for airports, defence and other government purposes.
From the late 18th century onwards, the territories acquired by the
Habsburg Monarchy were called crown lands (German:
Kronländer). Initially ruled in personal union by the House of
Habsburg-Lorraine, they played a vital role as constituent lands of
the Habsburg nation-building and were ultimately reorganised as
administrative divisions of the centralised Austrian Empire
established in 1804. During the restoration period after the
Revolutions of 1848, the Austrian crown lands were ruled by
Statthalter governors directly subordinate to the Emperor according to
the 1849 March Constitution.
By the 1861 February Patent, proclaimed by Emperor Franz Joseph I, the
Austrian crown lands received a certain autonomy. The traditional
Landstände (estates) assemblies were elevated to Landtage
legislatures, partly elected according to the principle of census
After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the Kingdom of Hungary
(with the Principality of Transylvania), the Kingdom of
Croatia-Slavonia and Fiume became constituent parts of the Lands of
the Crown of Saint Stephen (Transleithania); ruled in real union with
the remaining Austrian crown lands (officially: "The Kingdoms and
Lands represented in the Imperial Council") of
Cisleithania until the
disintegration of the dual monarchy in 1918.
Main article: Czech lands
The medieval European state of the Crown of Bohemia, which was an
electorate of the Holy Roman Empire, consisted of crown lands: Kingdom
of Bohemia, Margraviate of Moravia, Duchies of Silesia, Upper and
In Barbados, the term crown land, extends to all land that is under
the control or ownership of
The Crown (a.k.a. the Government). 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. 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".
See also: Land ownership in Canada
Within Canada, Crown Land is a designated territorial area belonging
to the Canadian Crown. Though the monarch owns all Crown Land in
the country, it is divided in parallel with the "division" of the
Crown among the federal and provincial jurisdictions, so that some
lands within the provinces are administered by the relevant provincial
Crown, whereas others are under the federal Crown. About 89% of
Canada's land area (8,886,356 km²) is Crown Land: 41% is federal
crown land and 48% is provincial crown land. The remaining 11% is
privately owned. Most federal Crown Land is in the territories
(Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon) and is administered by
Indigenous 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 is 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 relevant ministers of the Crown. 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, also called public 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, such as an Order in
Council. Crown Land is governed by the Public Lands Act,
originally passed as the Provincial Lands Act in 1931 and renamed in
94% of the land in
British Columbia is provincial Crown Land, 2% of
which is covered by fresh water. Federal Crown Land make up a further
1% of the province, including Indian reserves, defence lands and
federal harbours, while 5% is privately owned. The Ministry of
Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations issues Crown Land
tenures and sells Crown Land on behalf of the Crown in Right of
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador is provincial Crown Land.
Currently, 48% of New Brunswick's territory is Crown Land, 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
As of October 2013, of the 5.3 million hectares of land in Nova
Scotia, approximately 1.53 million hectares (3.8 million acres or
about 29% of the province) is designated as Crown land. Crown land
is owned by the Province and managed by the Department of Natural
Resources on behalf of the citizens of Nova Scotia. It is a collective
asset which belongs to all Nova Scotians. Many acres of Crown land
are licensed for a variety of economic purposes to help build and
maintain the prosperity of the Province. These purposes range from
licenses and leases for cranberry bogs, forestry operations, peat
bogs, power lines, wind energy, to broadband towers, and tidal energy.
In addition, most of the submerged lands (the sea bed) along the
Province's 9,000 km of coastline are also considered Crown land.
Exceptions would include federally and privately owned waterlots. The
Province owns other land across Nova Scotia, including wilderness
areas, protected areas, highways, roads, and provincial buildings.
These parcels and structures are managed and administered by other
departments and are not considered Crown land.
By the Crown Lands Act, 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, and
cottages, while other areas are set aside for research, environmental
protection, public recreation, and resource management.
Approximately 95% of the province's forests sit within provincial
More than 92% of Québec's territory is Crown land. This heritage and
the natural resources that it contains are developed to contribute to
the socioeconomic development of all regions of Québec. Public land
is used for a variety of purposes: forestry, mineral, energy, and
wildlife resources; developing natural spaces, including parks for
recreation and conservation, ecological preserves, and wildlife
refuges and habitats; developing infrastructure for industrial and
public utilities purposes as well as for leisure and vacation
Main article: Crown lands of France
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 10th 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
Duchy of Burgundy in the 14th and 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").
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
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
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
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
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
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
Eventually the nobility controlled most of the Crown lands. People
without a formal title of nobility inherited or granted were not
allowed 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 1788–1792 decided
to put them on sale, to raise funds for reforms and modernising the
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.
Main article: Patrimonio Nacional
Historically, the kings of Spain have possessed vast lands, palaces,
castles and other buildings, however, at present all those properties
are owned by the State. The Crownlands are administered by an
independent institution called Patrimonio Nacional, which is
responsible for the maintenance of these properties that are always
available to the King or Queen of Spain.
See also: Ceded lands
Prior to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, the Hawaiian monarchs
had access to 1.8 million acres (7,300 km²), the private lands
Kamehameha III which he set aside for the dignity of the royal
office for the ruler of the Hawaiian Monarchy on 8 March 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
Kingdom's Supreme Court that under the above-mentioned instrument
executed by Kamehameha III, reserving the Crown Lands, and under the
confirmatory Act of 7 June 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 3 January 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 lands were held by
Queen Lili'uokalani before 17 January 1893. On
this date, the royal power was overthrown. The crown lands were taken
in charge by the provisional and republican governments. When the
Republic of Hawaii
Republic of Hawaii joined the United States in 1898, the territorial
government took ownership. In 1910, Liliuokalani, the former Queen,
unsuccessfully attempted to sue the United States for the loss of the
Hawaiian Crown land.
In March 2009, the U.S. 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 had 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.
All "crown leases" in the former British crown colony became
"government leases" on 1 July 1997 upon the change of status of the
United Kingdom and its predecessor states
Main article: Crown Estate
Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000
Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (in the UK)
Easement ("the right of use over the real property of another")
Freedom to roam
Indigenous land rights
Prior-appropriation water rights
Riparian water rights
^ Land Tenure at Geoscience Australia
Crown land rent changes spark concerns for clubs, ABC News, 10
^ NSW Land and
^ Crown Land; Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
Barbados Government: Crown Lands (Vesting and Disposal) – CAP.225,
^ "More homes on the way". The
Barbados Advocate. 9 November 2008.
Archived from the original on 15 February 2012. Retrieved 5 December
^ Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. "Federal Crown
Land". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
^ a b c Government of
Alberta (September 1997), About Public Lands
(PDF), Queen's Printer for Alberta, archived from the original (PDF)
on 25 March 2013, retrieved 18 October 2012
^ a b V.P. NEIMANIS. "Crown Land". The Canadian Encyclopedia:
Geography. Historica Foundation of Canada. Retrieved 12 February
Elizabeth II (2004). "
Alberta Land Titles Procedures Manual" (PDF).
Background (CRG-3 ed.). Edmonton:
Alberta Queen's Printer (published
12 November 2004): 1. Retrieved 1 February 2009.
Elizabeth II 2004, Registration Procedure A.1
^ Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. "Crown
Land, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations".
Retrieved 20 July 2016.
^ Mitchell, Simon, J. (June 2003), Who Owns Crown Lands?, Falls Brook
Centre, retrieved 15 May 2011
^ a b c Crown Land in Nova Scotia, Province of Nova Scotia, October
2013, retrieved 8 December 2014
^ Elizabeth II, Crown Lands Act, Queen's Printer for Manitoba,
retrieved 22 June 2012
^ "Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives: Agricultural
Crown Lands Leasing Program". Gov.mb.ca. Archived from the original on
3 November 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
^ a b "Government of Manitoba: Some Questions and Answers Regarding
Manitoba's Crown Land Policies for Wind Farms" (PDF). Archived from
the original (PDF) on 19 March 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
^ "Forests". Manitoba Wildlands. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
^ "MERN- Quebec's Borders". www.mern.gouv.qc.ca. Retrieved
^ "Hawaiian Kingdom – History of Land titles". Hawaiiankingdom.org.
Retrieved 5 December 2012.
^ Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance Conveyancing and
Polish PWN encyclopedia on 'Królewszczyzna'
The Canadian Encyclopedia – Crown land
Crown Land in Canada
Archives of Ontario: Crown Land Records
United Kingdom Crown Estate
Crown Land Reference For Canada
Marital property (USA)
Estate in land
Bundle of rights
Common good (economics)
Free rider problem
Labor theory of property
Law of rent
Right to property
Tragedy of the commons
Ejido (agrarian land)
restraint on alienation
Freedom to roam
Right of way
Two Treatises of Government
John Stuart Mill
The Great Transformation
What Is Property?
Murray N. Rothbard
The Ethics of Liberty
The Social Contract
The Wealth of Nations