King of South Africa

King of South Africa

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The King or Queen of South Africa was titular head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 of the Union of South Africa
Union of South Africa
The Union of South Africa is the historic predecessor to the present-day Republic of South Africa. It came into being on 31 May 1910 with the unification of the previously separate colonies of the Cape, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange Free State...

 during the state's existence as a Dominion of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 and later a Commonwealth Realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

 from 31 May 1910 to 31 May 1961, when the country became the Republic of South Africa. Since the Union of South Africa was a British dominion the British monarch reigned as South Africa's monarch, and was represented by the Governor-General of the Union of South Africa
Governor-General of the Union of South Africa
The Governor-General of the Union of South Africa was the representative of the British and later South African Crown in the Union of South Africa between 31 May 1910 and 31 May 1961...

.

History


Prior to 1927, the King was considered "King in South Africa" rather than "King of South Africa", as, until the passage of the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927
Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927
The Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927 [17 & 18 Geo. 5 c. 4] was an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom that authorised the alteration of the British monarch's royal style and titles, and altered the formal name of the British Parliament, in recognition of much of Ireland separating from...

, constitutional law held that there was a single indivisible monarchy with the Dominions treated as territories of the British Sovereign. After 1927, and particularly after the Statute of Westminster 1931
Statute of Westminster 1931
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Passed on 11 December 1931, the Act established legislative equality for the self-governing dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom...

, the concept of a shared crown emerged. Still, until the coronation of Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

, the Monarch of South Africa did not have a distinct title, instead being styled as "King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the British dominions beyond the seas." With Elizabeth II's ascension occurring during the transformation of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 into the Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

, the Commonwealth Realms collectively decided to each create a title for the Sovereign within their own jurisdictions, though it would retain the common format of "Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, [relevant country] and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith." Thus Elizabeth bore the title of Queen of South Africa while her predecessors were kings of South Africa in law but not in title.

The last South African Monarch to visit South Africa as sovereign was George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

 in 1947, accompanied by the then Princess Elizabeth, as the following year saw the election of the pro-republican National Party
National Party (South Africa)
The National Party is a former political party in South Africa. Founded in 1914, it was the governing party of the country from 4 June 1948 until 9 May 1994. Members of the National Party were sometimes known as Nationalists or Nats. Its policies included apartheid, the establishment of a...

. Following a referendum
South African referendum, 1960
In 1960, the National Party government of South Africa held a referendum on whether or not the then Union of South Africa should abandon its status as a Commonwealth realm and become a republic...

, South Africa became a republic in 1961, and Queen Elizabeth II would not visit the country until 1995, no longer as Head of State, but as Head of the Commonwealth
Head of the Commonwealth
The Head of the Commonwealth heads the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation which currently comprises 54 sovereign states. The position is currently occupied by the individual who serves as monarch of each of the Commonwealth realms, but has no day-to-day involvement in the...

.

Kings and Queens of the Union of South Africa

  • George V
    George V of the United Kingdom
    George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

     (1910–1936)
  • Edward VIII
    Edward VIII of the United Kingdom
    Edward VIII was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, and Emperor of India, from 20 January to 11 December 1936.Before his accession to the throne, Edward was Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay...

     (1936)
  • George VI
    George VI of the United Kingdom
    George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

     (1936–1952)
  • Elizabeth II
    Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
    Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

    (1952–1961)