Monarchy of Tuvalu

The monarchy of Tuvalu is a system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Tuvalu. The present monarch of Tuvalu is Queen Elizabeth II,[1] who is also the Sovereign of 15 other Commonwealth realms.[2] The Queen's constitutional roles are mostly delegated to the Governor-General of Tuvalu.

Royal succession is governed by the English Act of Settlement of 1701, which is part of constitutional law.

Queen of Tuvalu
Coat of arms of Tuvalu
Queen Elizabeth II in March 2015
Elizabeth II
StyleHer Majesty
Heir apparentCharles, Prince of Wales
First monarchElizabeth II
Formation1 October 1978

International and domestic role

Fifty-two states are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Sixteen of these countries are specifically Commonwealth realms who recognise, individually, the same person as their Monarch and Head of State; Tuvalu is one of these.[3] Despite sharing the same person as their respective national monarch, each of the Commonwealth realms—including Tuvalu—is sovereign and independent of the others.

Development of shared monarchy

The Balfour Declaration of 1926 provided the Dominions the right to be considered equal to Britain, rather than subordinate; an agreement that had the result of, in theory, a shared Crown that operates independently in each realm rather than a unitary British Crown under which all the dominions were secondary. The Monarchy thus ceased to be an exclusively British institution, although it has often been called "British" since this time (in both legal and common language) for reasons historical, legal, and of convenience. The Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act, 1927 was the first indication of this shift in law, further elaborated in the Statute of Westminster 1931.

Tuvalu achieved independence in 1978 but retained the Queen as Head of State. Under the Statute of Westminster, Tuvalu has a common monarchy with Britain and the other Commonwealth realms.

On all matters of the Tuvaluan State, the monarch is advised solely by Tuvaluan ministers. 16 June remains a public holiday as the Queen's Official Birthday.

The Queen of Tuvalu and the Duke of Edinburgh toured Tuvalu between 26–27 October 1982. The royal couple were carried around in ceremonial litters and later served with traditional local dishes on a banquet.[4][5] A sheet of commemorative stamps was issued for the royal visit by the Tuvalu Philatelic Bureau.


By the Act 1 of 1987 of the Parliament of Tuvalu her style and title are: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Tuvalu and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.[6]

This style communicates Tuvalu's status as an independent monarchy, highlighting the Monarch's role specifically as Queen of Tuvalu, as well as the shared aspect of the Crown throughout the Commonwealth. Typically, the Sovereign is styled "Queen of Tuvalu," and is addressed as such when in Tuvalu, or performing duties on behalf of Tuvalu abroad.

Oath of allegiance

Under the Constitution of Tuvalu, the oath of allegiance is a declaration of allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Her Heirs and Successors.

Constitutional role

The Monarchy of Tuvalu and the Governor General

The Monarchy of Tuvalu exists in a framework of a parliamentary representative democracy. As a constitutional monarch, The Queen acts entirely on the advice of her Government ministers in Tuvalu.[7] The Head of State is recognised in section 50 of the Constitution of Tuvalu, as a symbol of the unity and identity of Tuvalu. The powers of the Head of State are set out in section 52 (1) of the Constitution.[8][9]

Part IV of the Constitution confirms the Head of State of Tuvalu is Queen Elizabeth II as the Sovereign of Tuvalu and provides for the rules for succession to the Crown. As set out in section 54 of the Constitution, the Queen’s representative is the governor general. Section 58 of the Constitution requires the governor general to perform the functions of the Head of State when the Sovereign is outside Tuvalu or otherwise incapacitated. The governor general of Tuvalu is appointed by the monarch upon the advice of the Prime Minister of Tuvalu.

In 1986 the Constitution adopted upon independence was amended in order to give attention to Tuvaluan custom and tradition as well as the aspirations and values of the Tuvaluan people.[10] The changes placed greater emphasis on Tuvaluan community values rather than Western concepts of individual entitlement.[11] The preamble was changed and an introductory ‘Principles of the Constitution’ was added.

The preamble to the Constitution of Tuvalu recites that the Ellice Islands, after coming under the protection of Queen Victoria in 1892, had, in January 1916, in conjunction with the Gilbert Islands, become known as the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony; and that after the Ellice Islands had been established by Queen Elizabeth as a separate colony in October 1975 under their ancient name of Tuvalu, a constitution had been adopted which was given the force of law by Order in Council, taking effect on 1 October 1978. The constitution now provides that Queen Elizabeth II is the sovereign of Tuvalu and the head of state and that references to the sovereign extend to the sovereign's heirs and successors.


Most of the Queen's domestic duties are performed by the governor-general. The governor-general represents the Queen on ceremonial occasions such as the opening of parliament, the presentation of honours and military parades. Under the constitution, he is given authority to act in some matters, for example in appointing and disciplining officers of the civil service, in proroguing Parliament. As in the other Commonwealth realms, however, the monarch's role, and thereby the viceroy's role, is almost entirely symbolic and cultural, acting as a symbol of the legal authority under which all governments operate, and the powers that are constitutionally hers are exercised almost wholly upon the advice of the Cabinet, made up of Ministers of the Crown. It has been said since the death of Queen Anne in 1714, the last monarch to head the British Cabinet, that the monarch "reigns" but does not "rule". In exceptional circumstances, however, the monarch or viceroy can act against such advice based upon his or her reserve powers.

There are also a few duties which must be specifically performed by, or bills that require assent by the Queen. These include: signing the appointment papers of governors-general, the confirmation of awards of honours, and approving any change in her title.

It is also possible that if the governor-general decided to go against the prime minister's or the government's advice, the prime Minister could appeal directly to the monarch, or even recommend that the monarch dismiss the governor-general.


Charles, Prince of Wales
Charles, Prince of Wales, the current heir to the throne of Tuvalu

The constitution provides that the Queen's heirs shall succeed her as head of state. Unlike some realms, but as with others, Tuvalu defers to United Kingdom law to determine the line of succession to the Tuvaluan throne.[12] As such, succession is by absolute primogeniture and governed by the Act of Settlement 1701, the Bill of Rights 1689, and the Succession to the Crown Act 2013. This legislation lays out the rules that the monarch cannot be a Roman Catholic and must be in communion with the Church of England upon ascending the throne. The heir apparent is Elizabeth II's eldest son, Charles, who has no official title outside of the UK, but is accorded his UK title, Prince of Wales, as a courtesy title.

Legal role

All laws in Tuvalu are enacted with the sovereign's, or the viceroy's granting of Royal Assent; it and proclamation are required for all acts of parliament, usually granted or withheld by the governor-general. The viceroy may reserve a bill for the monarch's pleasure, that is to say, allow the monarch to make a personal decision on the bill. The monarch has the power to disallow a bill (within a time limit specified by the constitution).

The sovereign is deemed the "fount of justice," and is responsible for rendering justice for all subjects. The sovereign does not personally rule in judicial cases; instead, judicial functions are performed in his or her name. The common law holds that the sovereign "can do no wrong"; the monarch cannot be prosecuted in his or her own courts for criminal offences. Civil lawsuits against the Crown in its public capacity (that is, lawsuits against the government) are permitted; however, lawsuits against the monarch personally are not cognizable.

The sovereign, and by extension the governor-general, also exercises the "prerogative of mercy," and may pardon offences against the Crown. Pardons may be awarded before, during, or after a trial. The exercise of the 'Power of Mercy' to grant a pardon and the commutation of prison sentences in described in section 80 of the Constitution.

In Tuvalu the legal personality of the state is referred to as Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Tuvalu. For example, if a lawsuit is filed against the government, the respondent is formally described as Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Tuvalu. The monarch as an individual takes no more role in such an affair than in any other business of government.

Referendum of 2008

In the first years of the 21st century there was a debate about the abolition of the monarchy. Prime Minister Saufatu Sopoanga had stated in 2004 that he was in favour of replacing the Queen as Tuvalu's head of state, a view supported by popular former Prime Minister Ionatana Ionatana; Sopoanga also stated that public opinion would be evaluated first before taking any further moves.[13] Former Prime Minister Kamuta Latasi also supported the idea.

A referendum was held in Tuvalu in 2008, giving voters the option of retaining the monarchy, or abolishing it in favour of a republic. The monarchy was retained with 1,260 votes to 679 (64.98%).[14][15] Turnout was low, with about 2,000 voters of a potential 9,000 taking part.


  1. ^ Government
  2. ^ The Monarchy Today > Queen and Commonwealth
  3. ^ The Monarchy Today > Queen and Commonwealth > Members
  4. ^ "Slide show of Queen Elizabeth II & the Duke of Edinburgh during their visit to Tuvalu in October, 1982". YouTube (video). Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  5. ^ "'Change in Tuvalu' - Royal Visit to Tuvalu by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II & The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip in October, 1982". YouTube (video). Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  6. ^ "The Queen and Tuvalu (style and title)". Official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  7. ^ "The Queen's Role in Tuvalu". Official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  8. ^ "The Constitution of Tuvalu". PACLII. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  9. ^ "The Constitution of Tuvalu". Tuvalu Islands. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  10. ^ Farran, Sue (2006). "Obstacle to Human Rights? Considerations from the South Pacific" (PDF). Journal of Legal Pluralism: 77–105.
  11. ^ Levine, Stephen (1992). "Constitutional change in Tuvalu". Australian Journal of Political Science. 27 (3): 492–509.
  12. ^ Clegg, Nick (26 March 2015), Commencement of Succession to the Crown Act 2013 :Written statement - HCWS490, London: Queen's Printer, retrieved 26 March 2015
  13. ^ Chapman, Paul (2004-05-06). "Tuvalu may ditch the Queen and declare a republic". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Retrieved 2006-06-30.
  14. ^ "Tuvalu votes to maintain monarchy", Radio Australia, 17 June 2008
  15. ^ "Tuvaluans vote against republic, Tuvalu News, 30 April 2008
2008 Tuvaluan constitutional referendum

A constitutional referendum was held in Tuvalu on 30 April 2008. The referendum sought to abolish the monarchy of Tuvalu and establish the country as a republic. Had the referendum passed, the new president would have been indirectly elected by the Parliament of Tuvalu.

The referendum failed, with 679 votes in favour of establishing a republic and 1,260 votes to retain the monarchy. As a consequence, Tuvalu remained a monarchy, and Elizabeth II remained Head of State. Turnout for the referendum was low. Only 1,939 voters cast valid ballots, out of the approximately 9,000 voting-aged Tuvaluans. In comparison, 8,501 votes were cast in the 2006 parliamentary election.

Commonwealth realm

A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state in which Queen Elizabeth II is the reigning constitutional monarch and head of state. Each realm is independent from the other realms. As of 2019, there are 16 Commonwealth realms: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom. All 16 Commonwealth realms are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation of 53 member states. Elizabeth II is Head of the Commonwealth.

In 1952, Britain's proclamation of Elizabeth II's accession used the term realms to describe the seven sovereign states of which she was queen—the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon. Since then, new realms have been created through independence of former colonies and dependencies and some realms have become republics.

Constitution of Tuvalu

The Constitution of Tuvalu states that it is “the supreme law of Tuvalu” and that “all other laws shall be interpreted and applied subject to this Constitution”; it sets out the Principles of the Bill of Rights and the Protection of the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.Tuvalu's independence was granted to it by the United Kingdom by virtue of the Tuvalu Independence Order 1978 (UK). Tuvalu became an independent constitutional monarchy on 1 October 1978. Queen Elizabeth II - as the Queen of Tuvalu - is the Head of State, represented by the Governor-General, who is appointed by the Queen on advice of the Prime Minister of Tuvalu. A written constitution was adopted at independence. In 1986 Tuvalu approved a new constitution that had been developed by the community leaders and the members of the Tuvaluan parliament.

Governor-General of Tuvalu

The Governor-General of Tuvalu is the representative of the Tuvaluan monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) and performs the duties of the Queen in her absence.

List of heads of state of Tuvalu

This is a list of the heads of state of Tuvalu, from the independence of Tuvalu in 1978 to the present day.

The Monarchy of Tuvalu exists in a framework of a parliamentary representative democracy. As a constitutional monarch, the Queen of Tuvalu, Elizabeth II, acts entirely on the advice of her government ministers in Tuvalu. The Head of State is recognised in section 50 of the Constitution of Tuvalu, as a symbol of the unity and identity of Tuvalu. The powers of the head of state are set out in section 52 (1) of the Constitution.Part IV of the Constitution confirms the head of state of Tuvalu is Queen Elizabeth II as the sovereign of Tuvalu and provides for the rules for succession to the Crown. As set out in section 54 of the Constitution, the Queen’s representative in Tuvalu by a Governor-General. Section 58 of the Constitution requires the governor-general to perform the functions of the head of state when the sovereign is outside Tuvalu or otherwise incapacitated. The Governor-General of Tuvalu is appointed by the monarch upon the advice of the Prime Minister of Tuvalu.

The position is largely ceremonial. However the holder has constitutional responsibilities and reserve powers in relation to the ordering parliament to convene and the appointment and dismissal of the prime minister. In 2003 the Chief Justice of the High Court of Tuvalu delivered directions as to how the Governor-General should proceed to take any action he considers to be appropriate under Section 116(1) of the Constitution, acting in his own deliberate judgment, rather than as advised by the cabinet. That is, the Governor-General could consider whether it was appropriate to exercise his reserve powers in calling parliament.

List of kingdoms and royal dynasties

Monarchism is a movement that supports the monarchy as a form of government.

Outline of Tuvalu

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Tuvalu:

Tuvalu (formerly known as the Ellice Islands) – sovereign Polynesian island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaiʻi and Australia. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji. Comprising three reef islands and six true atolls with a gross land area of just 26 square kilometers (10 sq mi) it is the third-least populated independent country in the world, with only Vatican City and Nauru having fewer inhabitants. It is also the second-smallest member by population of the United Nations. In terms of physical land size, Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world, larger only than the Vatican City—0.44 km²; Monaco—1.95 km² and Nauru—21 km². Tuvalu’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers an oceanic area of approximately 900,000 km2.The first inhabitants of Tuvalu were Polynesians. Therefore, the origins of the people of Tuvalu are addressed in the theories regarding the spread of humans out of Southeast Asia, from Taiwan, via Melanesia and across the Pacific islands to create Polynesia.

Tuvalu was first sighted by Europeans on 16 January 1568 during the voyage of Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira from Spain who is understood to have sighted the island of Nui. Mendaña made contact with the islanders but was unable to land. During Mendaña's second voyage across the Pacific he passed Niulakita on 29 August 1595. Captain John Byron passed through the islands of Tuvalu in 1764 during his circumnavigation of the globe as captain of HMS Dolphin.Keith S. Chambers and Doug Munro (1980) identify Niutao as the island that Francisco Mourelle de la Rúa sailed past on 5 May 1781, thus solving what Europeans had called The Mystery of Gran Cocal. Mourelle's map and journal named the island El Gran Cocal ('The Great Coconut Plantation'); however, the latitude and longitude was uncertain. Longitude could only be reckoned crudely as accurate chronometers were available until the late 18th century. Visits to the islands became more frequent in the 19th century.

The islands came under Britain's sphere of influence in the late 19th century. The Ellice Islands were administered by Britain as a protectorate as part of the British Western Pacific Territories from 1892 to 1916 and as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony from 1916 to 1974. In 1974 the Ellice Islanders voted for separate British dependency status for Tuvalu, separating from the Gilbert Islands which became Kiribati upon independence. Tuvalu became fully independent within The Commonwealth in 1978. On 17 September 2000 Tuvalu became the 189th member of the United Nations.

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