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2 - The Crown as Corporation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

David Runciman
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Magnus Ryan
Affiliation:
University of London
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Summary

The greatest of artificial persons, politically speaking, is the State. But it depends on the legal institutions and forms of every commonwealth whether and how far the State or its titular head is officially treated as an artificial person. In England we now say that the Crown is a corporation: it was certainly not so when the king's peace died with him, and ‘every man that could forthwith robbed another’.

I quote these words from Sir F. Pollock's First Book of Jurisprudence. They may serve to attract a little interest to that curious freak of English law, the corporation sole. In a previous paper I have written something concerning its history. I endeavoured to show that this strange conceit originated in the sixteenth century and within the domain of what we may call ‘church property law’. It held out a hope, which proved to be vain, that it would provide a permanent ‘subject’ in which could be reposed that fee simple of the parochial glebe which had been slowly abstracted from the patron and was not comfortable in those clouds to which Littleton had banished it. Then, following in the steps of Sir William Markby, I ventured to say that this corporation sole has shown itself to be no ‘juristic person’, but is either a natural man or a juristic abortion.

If the corporation sole had never trespassed beyond the ecclesiastical province in which it was native, it would nowadays be very unimportant.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2003

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