For example, the Treason Felony Act 1848 refers specifically to harm to the Queen:

If any person whatsoever shall, within the United Kingdom or without, compass, imagine, invent, devise, or intend to deprive or depose our Most Gracious Lady the Queen, from the style, honour, or royal name of the imperial crown of the United Kingdom, or of any other of her Majesty’s dominions and countries...

Currently we do not have a "Gracious Lady Queen" with "the imperial crown", but a King. What is the status of this law? Is it now impossible to break it, or does "Queen" get interpreted as "King" when the head is state is male? I may be worth noting that the law was written when we had a previous "Gracious Lady Queen", and it appears the text has not changed since 1891, so this may not be a new issue as we had a King from 1901 to 1952.

  • 4
    The Queen is even mentioned in the constitutions of some countries.
    – TRiG
    Sep 17, 2022 at 18:10

1 Answer 1


What is the status of laws that refer to the Queen now we have a King?

As mentioned in Treason Felony Act 1848 - Wikipedia:

Section 10 of the Interpretation Act 1978 says that references to the Sovereign reigning at the time of the passing of the Treason Felony Act are to be construed as references to the Sovereign for the time being.

since 1978 a general solution exists which applies to all acts.

Between 1901 to 1978, Section 30 of the Interpretation Act 1889 used a similar wording.


References to the Sovereign.
In any Act a reference to the Sovereign reigning at the time of the passing of the Act is to be construed, unless the contrary intention appears, as a reference to the Sovereign for the time being.

  • 1
    "How this was dealt with between 1901 to 1952 is not mentioned": surely this principle was established at least since Elizabeth I, if not explicitly in an earlier statute then through judicial precedent.
    – phoog
    Sep 17, 2022 at 10:39
  • 3
    @phoog Most probably, but I have never heard of any details. I always assumed that it would be part of the Demise of the Crown process that the Privy Council goes through. Sep 17, 2022 at 11:01
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    Before there was the Interpretation Act 1978, there was the Interpretation Act 1889, which contained (at section 30) an even stronger version of the same principle. Sep 17, 2022 at 15:29
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    @MarkJohnson There are a few still-extant Acts of the English Parliament from the reign of Elizabeth I (Letters Patent Act 1571; Oxford and Cambridge Act 1571; Simony Act 1588) that refer to future roles, actions, or rights of the monarch: they use phrases like 'the Quenes Majestie her Heires and Successors', so they don't need the help of an Interpretation Act to apply to future monarchs of any gender. Sep 17, 2022 at 16:18
  • 2
    @DanielHatton I have added a reference to the Interpretation Act 1889 to the answer. Sep 17, 2022 at 17:02

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