In my post about the problems with the Canadian Succession to the Throne Act 2013, I referred to the Crown’s status as a corporation sole. Since then, I’ve been asked about the nature of corporations sole, so I thought a brief explanation might be in order.
To quote Sir William Blackstone:
Corporations sole consist of one person only and his successors, in some particular station, who are incorporated by law, in order to give them some legal capacities and advantages, particularly that of perpetuity, which in their natural persons they could not have had (Commentaries on the Laws of England, vol. 1, pg. 469).
Because of the Crown’s status as a corporation sole, it is often said that “the king never dies” (rex nunquam moritur). When one monarch dies, their heir immediately succeeds to the throne without any kind of interregnum, and the new sovereign immediately enjoys all of the rights and privileges of their predecessor. The accession proclamation and the coronation are merely formalities.
Fun Fact: the phrase “demise of the Crown” technically has nothing to do with death. “Demise” is an Anglo-French legal term referring to the transfer of an estate, so the demise of the Crown simply refers to the transfer of sovereignty from one monarch to another. That’s why it’s correct to speak of the abdication of Edward VIII as a demise of the Crown.