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Rex nunquam moritur

Meaning:The King never dies.

In Anglia non est interregnum, is the meaning of this maxim. There is always a King of England, there is no interregnum or space of time between the death of one King and the being king of his successor.

The principle contained in this maxim of English1) constitution is founded upon motives of expediency, and to avoid dissension in troublesome times, the descent of the Crown being once fixed.

The law ascribes to the sovereign in his political capacity perpetuity. The King never dies. George or William may die, but the King does not. For, immediately upon the death, in his natural capacity ; or, as it is technically termed, demise, of the reigning sovereign ; his sovereign dignity vests by act of law, without any interregnum or interval, in his heir who is, eo instanti, to all intents and purposes, King. And which term demise, as applied to the death of the King, means only that, in consequence of the disunion of the King's natural body from his body politic, the kingdom is transferred or demised to his successor, and so the royal dignity remains perpetual.

In accordance with this maxim, if a grant of lands be made to the King without the words heirs or successors, a fee simple will pass ; for that in judgment of law he never dies. And, as the King commences his reign from the day of the death of his ancestor, it has been held, that compassing his death before coronation, or even before proclamation of him, is a compassing the King's death, he being King presently, and the proclamation and coronation being only honourable ceremonies for the further notification thereof.

Notwithstanding the rule that the King never dies, it has been held, in effect, that the maxim- “ Actio personalis moritur cum persona, ” applies in the case of the death of the King, to a claim by a subject to recover compensation from the Crown for damage to the property of an individual, occasioned by negligence of the servants of the Crown in a preceding reign, and that a petition of right in such case will not lie ; also, that the reigning sovereign is not liable to make compensation for damage to the property of an individual, occasioned by the negligence of the servants of the Crown in a preceding reign ; nor semble, even where such damage has been done in his own reign ; but this latter, under the maxim, “ Rex non potest peccare.”

It follows from the fact that the heir or successor of one King is King immediately upon the demise of his predecessor, that the King, as such, cannot be a minor ; and the rules for the good government of a kingdom require that he who is to govern and manage the kingdom should not be considered a minor, and incapable of governing his own affairs ; therefore, grants, leases, etc, made by him when under age, bind presently, and cannot be avoided by him, either during minority or when he afterwards comes of age.

The following maxims relating to the Crown, not before referred to, may be appropriately stated here.

  • Non potest Rex gratiam facere cum injuria et damno aliorum”; The King cannot confer a favour at the expense and to the injury of others.
  • Rex non debet esse sub homine, sed sub Deo et sub lege, quia lex facit regem”; The King ought not to be under the dominion of man, but under God and the law, because the law makes the King.

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