Title Differences

This resource notes the differences between some commonly used royal titles. All of the titles currently listed are those that have been/are currently being used by the reigning monarch of the British Royal Family.

Click on one of the following to quickly jump to the corresponding explanation:

MONARCH

A monarch is the ruling member of a royal family. Today, the monarch of the British Royal Family is Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

This family member may have total power of their land such as kings and queens of the past of have reserve power for use in emergencies only and vest the day to day governance on a government or set of governments, such is the type of monarchy that Queen Elizabeth II is currently head of.

SOVEREIGN

The term sovereign is generally used to describe any one person from a royal family who is a monarch and has total power over a country or set of countries.

For a long time, the reigning monarch of the British Royal Family was a sovereign and had total power over the countries which they ruled. Today, Her Majesty, The Queen needs her governments to operate day to day activity.

HEAD OF STATE

The Head of State is a title given to the highest possible ranking member of a sovereign state (such as those which Queen Elizabeth rules over eg New Zealand and Australia).

The Head of State is normally presented as the chief public representative of that state and can have power ranging from total to next to none. The British Monarchy today still holds some power over countries of which they are Head of State such as the power to disband a government if they believe it does not serve its people completely.

EMPEROR

An emperor is close to a monarch except it is generally thought that one holds a higher rank over a king or queen. The only emperor active in the world today is the Emperor of Japan.

Between 1876 when Her Majesty, Queen Victoria gained power over it and 1947 when it became independent the reigning monarch of the British Royal Family was also the Emperor of India.

HEAD OF THE COMMONWEALTH

This title is given to the Head of the Commonwealth of Nations which is comprised of 54 sovereign states. The head has no day to day involvement in the running of these countries but does attend all Commonwealth games, summits and Commonwealth Day celebrations.

Currently, the title is held by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and was held by her father before her. However, it is not a given that it will pass on to whoever may succeed her as monarch.