Difference Between Crown Dependency and British Overseas Territory

Did you ever think about the difference between a Crown Dependency and British Overseas Territory? Some would just loosely use one term to mean the other. I believe it is important to know what is in each description.

In straightforward terms, British Crown Dependency means that you are self-governing but the British Crown maintains its possession of you. On the other hand, British Overseas Territory means that you are a British colony that continues to have a constitutional link with the United Kingdom. Simply put, both are very different from each other.

What makes them different, specifically? What are the countries that fall under each classification? Let us know all these as we move along in this informative article.

Read more: What are the languages spoken in the UK?

What does British Crown Dependency Mean?

When you say that a place is classified as a British Crown Dependency, they are self-governing territories but they are under the possession of the Crown. 

The Ministry of Justice simply puts it this way: they are “territories for which the United Kingdom is responsible.”

What are they not, then?

  • They have never been British colonies.
  • They are not part of the United Kingdom.
  • They are not British Overseas Territories.
  • They are not represented in the UK Parliament.
The Union Flag: Crown Dependency and British Overseas Territory
The Union Flag: Crown Dependency and British Overseas Territory

What are the British Crown Dependencies?

Here are the three island territories that are British Crown Dependencies:

1. Isle of Man

The Isle of Man belongs to the British Isles and is located in the Irish Sea, in between Ireland and Great Britain. Its capital is Douglas and its official language is English. It was in 1764 when the Isle of Man became under the British Crown. 

2. Bailiwick of Guernsey

The Bailiwick of Guernsey is part of the Channel Islands right in the English Channel. It is made up of the islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm. Its capital is Saint Peter Port and its official language is English. The Bailiwick of Guernsey was separated from the Dukedom and Duchy of Normandy in 1204.

3. Bailiwick of Jersey

The Bailiwick of Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands. St. Helier is its capital and English and French are their official languages. Like Guernsey, the Bailiwick of Jersey was separated from the Dukedom and Duchy of Normandy in 1204 and has been under the British Crown since then.

What the Channel Islands are and why the UK owns them

The Channel Islands are an archipelago located in the English Channel. They are British Crown Dependencies. They are not part of the United Kingdom but rather are dependents of the British Crown. They, too, are not British colonies and British Overseas Territories.

As briefly stated above, the Channel Islands are divided into two main groups:

  • Bailiwick of Guernsey – includes the islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou, Burhou, Lihou as well as other islets. 
  • Bailiwick of Jersey – includes Jersey, the uninhabited islands of the Minquiers and Ecréhous, the Pierres de Lecq as well as other rocks and reefs.

A brief history…

The Duchy of Normandy once owned the Channel Islands. When William the Conqueror became King of England in 1066, the ownership was passed on to the British Crown.

Mainland Normandy may have ended up becoming a French Territory, but the Channel Islands remained to be Crown possessions. 

It was in 1953 when the International Court of Justice confirmed British sovereignty over the Channel Islands.

What does the British Overseas Territories mean?

When you say a place is a British Overseas Territory, you are saying that although it may not be part of the United Kingdom, they are under its jurisdiction. Either they have not acquired independence or they have voted to stay as such.

How many territories does the UK have?

There are 14 British Overseas Territories.

British Overseas Territories list:

Here are the 14 places that make up the British Overseas Territories:

1. Anguilla

The Island of Anguilla is located in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Its capital is The Valley. English is the official language on the island. Anguilla has long been a British English Territory since 1650.

2. Bermuda

Bermuda is a group of islands situated in the western North Atlantic Ocean. Hamilton is the capital of this self-governing British territory. English is the official language on the archipelago. It was in 1684 when Bermuda became administered by the British monarchy.

3. British Antarctic Territory

The British Antarctic Territory or BAT is a massive area that is dominated by the ocean, located southeast of South America. The people in this place are mainly scientists and technicians who are in charge of the British Antarctic Survey stations. The British Antarctic Territory was declared a British territory in 1962.

4. British Indian Ocean Territory

British Indian Ocean Territory or BIOT is situated right at the heart of the Indian Ocean. It is also regarded as the Chagos Archipelago. A few thousands of U.S. and British military and contract civilian personnel are here. This territory became part of the list of British Overseas Territories in 1965.

5. British Virgin Islands 

The British Virgin Islands is located east of the Caribbean Sea. It is half of the two groups that constitute the Virgin Islands – the other half is the United States Virgin Islands. Road Town is its chief town and while English is the British territory’s official language, Virgin Islands Creole English is widely spoken. The British Virgin Islands became a self-governing dependent British Overseas Territory in 1967.

6. Cayman Islands

Northwest of Jamaica in the Caribbean Sea, you can find the Cayman Islands. George Town, which is located on Grand Cayman, is the Island’s capital. English is the official language while Spanish comes second. The Cayman Islands was formally declared a British Overseas Territory in 1670 under the Treaty of Madrid.

7. Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands are located south of the Atlantic Ocean. It is also called Malvinas Islands or Spanish Islas Malvinas, and its capital is Stanley. Residents of the Islands are English speakers. In 2013, 99.8% of the electorate voted in favor of Falkland Islands to continue being a British Overseas Territory.

8. Gibraltar

Gibraltar is situated in the southernmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula. It is well-regarded as The Rock because it serves as a symbol of British naval strength. Its capital is Gibraltar. While many speak both English and Spanish, the former serves as the official language of the area. In 1713, Gibraltar became a British Overseas Territory under the Treaty of Utrecht.

9. Montserrat

Montserrat is part of a group of islands called the Lesser Antilles located in the Caribbean. Its capital has been the Brades Estate ever since its former capital Plymouth was devastated by volcanic eruptions in 1997. English is the official language here. Montserrat was colonized by Britain in 1632.

10. Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie & Oeno Islands

The Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie & Oeno Islands at the Southern Pacific Ocean are collectively called the Pitcairn Islands. Of these four islands, only the small volcanic island of Pitcairn is inhabited. Henderson Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The capital and largest settlement in the Pitcairn Islands is Adamstown while their official languages are English and Pitkern. They have long been a British Overseas Territory since 1838.

11. Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha are isolated islands found in the South Atlantic. Located on the island of Saint Helena is the capital named Jamestown. English is their official language. The British Overseas Territories Act of 2002 granted British citizenship to residents of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

12. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are located in the Southern Atlantic Ocean. South Georgia is the largest island in this British Overseas Territory, and only a few scientists and technicians reside here. The South Sandwich Islands, on the other hand, have no permanent residents. King Edward Point is the Islands’ capital, and English is regarded as their official language. It was in 1908 when South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands became a British Territory.

13. Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia

The Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia are situated within the island of Cyprus. Their capital is Episkopi Cantonment and their official language is English, although Greek and Turkish are widely spoken. In 1960 when Cyprus was granted independence from the Crown colony, these Sovereign Base Areas or SBAs were kept under British sovereignty primarily for the military bases.

14. Turks and Caicos Islands

The Turks and Caicos Islands are British Overseas Territories that can be found in the West Indies. Cockburn Town, located in Grand Turk Island, is their capital. English is the official language here. They have been a Crown colony since 1962.

What does the British Commonwealth mean?

The British Commonwealth, now called the Commonwealth or the Commonwealth of Nations, is a group that includes the United Kingdom along with a number of its former dependencies which accept the Crown as their constitutional monarch.

All of the countries included in the Commonwealth are self-governing but they maintain good ties with each other. 32 of the member countries are classified as small states.

56 Commonwealth countries:

  1. Antigua and Barbuda
  2. Australia
  3. Bangladesh
  4. Brunei Darussalam
  5. The Bahamas
  6. Barbados
  7. Belize
  8. Botswana
  9. Canada
  10. Cameroon
  11. Cyprus
  12. Fiji
  13. Malta
  14. Dominica
  15. Gabon (New member 2022)
  16. Grenada
  17. Gambia
  18. Ghana
  19. Guyana
  20. India
  21. Jamaica
  22. Kenya
  23. Kingdom of Eswatini
  24. Kiribati
  25. Lesotho
  26. Malawi
  27. Malaysia
  28. Maldives
  29. Mauritius
  30. Mozambique
  31. Namibia
  32. Nauru
  33. Nigeria
  34. New Zealand
  35. Pakistan
  36. Papua New Guinea
  37. Rwanda
  38. Saint Kitts and Nevis
  39. Saint Lucia
  40. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  41. Samoa
  42. Seychelles
  43. Seirra Leone
  44. Singapore
  45. Sri Lanka
  46. Solomon Islands
  47. South Africa
  48. Trinidad and Tobago
  49. Togo (New member 2022)
  50. Tonga
  51. Tuvalu
  52. Uganda
  53. United Republic of Tanzania
  54. United Kingdom
  55. Vanuatu
  56. Zambia

I hope that helped you to learn the difference between the Crown Dependency and the British Overseas Territory, plus its relation to the British Monarchy and the United Kingdom.


Everything Zany Dual Citizen Travel Blog

Everything Zany

Travel Blog

Everything Zany Travel Blog exploring the UK and beyond. Sharing travel guides, tips, history and culture. Our travel media brand is founded by travel and hotel industry expert – Ryazan Tristram, a Dual Citizen (British – Filipina) based in Birmingham, UK. Everything Zany is a reputable and award-winning travel blog. Our work and contributions have been featured in Huffington Post, CNBC, Discovery Channel, GMA, Readers Digest, and Lonely Planet. Our missions are to build a great travel community and resource of travel tips, visas and travel guides for travellers. Join us as we travel around the UK and beyond with a mission to share the best of the world.

Leave a comment