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Governor-General

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Governor-General (Pl: governors-general) is the title for the representative of a monarch who serves as de facto head of state for a number of members of the Commonwealth known as Commonwealth Realms. While the Governor-General in theory retains a large amount of powers, in practice the Governor-General usually exercises those powers with the advice of the Prime Minister. This convention can be broken, most notably in the Australian constitutional crisis of 1975. The Governor-General is in theory appointed by the monarch but in practice the monarch acts on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Historically the office of Governor-General began as the colonial governor appointed by the United Kingdom to oversee its colonies. As such, early Governors-General were executive rulers in fact as well as in theory. Over time, as dominions acquired responsible government, the actual power of the Governors-General decreased.

Until 1927, the Governor-General filled a two-fold existence;

  • representative of the monarch;
  • representative of the British Government in each dominion.

As such he could be instructed by London on the exercise of some of his functions and duties, for example, the use or withholding of the Royal Assent for legislation. In 1927, implementing a decision of a Commonwealth Conference, this role was removed. As a result, the Governor General became the exclusive representative of the monarch, who from 1928 appointed the person selected by the native government, not London.

Note

1 The Irish governor-generalship was abolished by two enactments of the Irish parliament, passed in December 1936 and May 1937 respectively. The latter Act retrospectively dated the implementation of the abolition back to the date of the first Act, in 1936. There remains however a dispute in the archives from the time as to whether the abolition can be dated back to December 1936 or whether it could be said to have taken place only in mid 1937.


Other countries have appointed governors-general:



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