Monarchy of Tuvalu

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Queen of Tuvalu
Coat of arms of Tuvalu.svg
Elizabeth II in Berlin 2015 (cropped).JPG
Elizabeth II
since 1 October 1978
StyleHer Majesty
Heir apparentCharles, Prince of Wales
First monarchElizabeth II
Formation1 October 1978

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 14 other Commonwealth realms.[2] The Queen's constitutional roles are mostly delegated to the Governor-General of 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.[3] The powers of the head of state are set out in section 52 (1) of the Constitution.[4][5]

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.[4][5] The governor-general of Tuvalu is appointed by the monarch upon the advice of the Prime Minister of Tuvalu.


A 1939 Gilbert and Ellice Islands stamp

The Ellice Islands were administered as a British Protectorate from 1892 to 1916, as part of the British Western Pacific Territories (BWPT), by a Resident Commissioner based in the Gilbert Islands. The administration of the BWTP ended in 1916, and the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony was established, which existed until October 1976.

In 1974, the ministerial government was introduced to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony through a change to the Constitution. In that year a general election was held,[6] and a referendum was held in 1974 to determine whether the Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands should each have their own administration.[7] As a consequence of the referendum, separation occurred in two stages. The Tuvaluan Order 1975, which took effect on 1 October 1975, renamed Ellice Islands as "Tuvalu", and recognised Tuvalu as a separate British dependency with its own government.[8] The second stage occurred on 1 January 1976, when separate administrations were created out of the civil service of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony.[9][10]

Tuvalu achieved full independence in 1978 within the Commonwealth, as an independent constitutional monarchy. The monarch is equally shared with Britain and the other Commonwealth realms.

The preamble to the Constitution of independent 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, at the "request of the people of Tuvalu", the sovereign and head of state of Tuvalu and that references to the sovereign extend to the sovereign's heirs and successors.[4][5]

Personification of the state[edit]

The Queen of Tuvalu on the obverse of a Tuvaluan 10-cent coin of 1985.

As the living embodiment of the Tuvaluan Crown, the sovereign is regarded as the personification of Tuvaluan nation. It is confirmed in section 50 of the Constitution of Tuvalu, which states that the Head of State is recognised 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.[4][5]

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.

Oath of allegiance[edit]

As the embodiment of Tuvalu, the monarch is the locus of oaths of Allegiance. The oath of allegiance in Tuvalu is:[4][5]

"I, (name), do swear (or solemnly affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Sovereign of Tuvalu. (So help me God)"

Constitutional role[edit]

The flag of the Tuvaluan Governor-General featuring the St Edward's Crown

Fifty-six states are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Fifteen 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.[11] Despite sharing the same person as their respective national monarch, each of the Commonwealth realms—including Tuvalu—is sovereign and independent of the others (that is to say, each Crown is a separate legal personality).

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.[12]

On all matters of the Tuvaluan State, the monarch is advised solely by Tuvaluan ministers.[12] As set out in section 54 of the Constitution, the Sovereign'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.[4][5] The governor general of Tuvalu is appointed by the monarch upon the advice of the Prime Minister of Tuvalu.

Executive and Parliament[edit]

Parliament of Tuvalu

As a constitutional monarch, The Queen acts entirely on the advice of Tuvaluan Ministers of the Crown.[12]

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, the governor-general is given authority to act in some matters, for example in appointing and disciplining officers of the civil service, in proroguing Parliament. In exceptional circumstances, however, the monarch or governor-general can act against such advice based upon his or her reserve powers.[13]

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.

All executive powers of Tuvalu rest with the sovereign. All laws in Tuvalu are enacted only with the granting of Royal Assent, done by the Governor-General on behalf of the sovereign.[4] Proclamations are required for all acts of parliament, usually granted or withheld by the governor-general.[13] The governor-general 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 also responsible for proroguing, and dissolving the Tuvaluan Parliament.[4]

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.

Foreign affairs[edit]

Governor-General Iakoba Italei with President Tsai of Taiwan, 2017

All Tuvaluan passports are issued in the name of the monarch. The first page of a Tuvaluan passport reads:[14]

"The Governor-General of Tuvalu hereby requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second all those whom it may concern to allow the holder of this passport to pass freely, without hindrance or delay, and in case of need to give the holder all lawful aid and protection. The holder of this passport has the right to enter and reside in Tuvalu."


Within the Commonwealth realms, the sovereign is responsible for rendering justice for all her subjects, and is thus traditionally deemed the fount of justice.[15] In Tuvalu, criminal offences are legally deemed to be offences against the sovereign and proceedings for indictable offences are brought in the sovereign's name in the form of Regina versus [Name] ("Regina" being Latin for "Queen").[16][17] Hence, 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.[18]

The highest court of appeal for Tuvalu is the Judicial Committee of the Queen's Privy Council.[19]

The monarch, on the advice of the Cabinet, can also grant immunity from prosecution, exercise the royal prerogative of mercy, and pardon offences against the Crown, either 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.[4]


The Royal Style and Title Act 1987 of the Tuvaluan Parliament granted the monarch a separate title in her role as Queen of Tuvalu.[20] The current style is:

Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of Tuvalu and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.[21]

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.


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.[22] 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.

Cultural role[edit]

The longevity of her life and her reign is an indication of success and a blessed reign.

— Governor-General Iakoba Italeli, 2018[23]

The Queen's Official Birthday is a public holiday in Tuvalu. In Tuvalu, it is usually celebrated on the second Saturday of June every year.[24][25] Tuvaluans celebrate it with church services and prayers, singing God Save The Queen and Tuvalu mo te Atua, flag hoisting, public speeches, a Royal Salute, and a parade. As the Queen's Birthday is a public holiday, all government offices, educational institutions, and most businesses are closed for the day.[23][26][27]

Tuvaluans also celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Wales, heir to the Tuvaluan Throne. Heir to the Throne Day is a public holiday in November.[28]

The Crown and Honours[edit]

The insignia of the Tuvalu Order of Merit featuring St Edward's Crown

Within the Commonwealth realms, the monarch is deemed the fount of honour.[29] Similarly, the monarch, as Sovereign of Tuvalu, confers awards and honours in Tuvalu in her name. Most of them are often awarded on the advice of "Her Majesty's Tuvalu Ministers".[30][31][32]

The Crown and the Police Force[edit]

The emblem of the Tuvalu Police Force featuring St Edward's Crown

The Crown sits at the pinnacle of the Tuvalu Police Force. It is reflected in Tuvalu's patrol vessels, which bear the prefix HMTSS, i.e., Her Majesty's Tuvalu Surveillance Ship.[33][34]

Under Section 159(5) of the Tuvaluan constitution, the chief of the police force is appointed by the monarch, in accordance to the advice of the Public Service Commission after consultation with the Tuvaluan cabinet.[35] Under the Police Act of Tuvalu, every member of the Tuvalu Police Force has to swear allegiance to the monarch of Tuvalu, on being enrolled. The current oath is:[36]

"I, (name), do swear by Almighty God (or solemnly and sincerely affirm) that I will well and truly that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully serve Her Majesty the Queen, Her Heirs and Successors, during my service in the Tuvalu Police Force: that I will subject myself to all Acts, orders and regulations relating to the said Police now in force or which may from time to time be in force and will discharge all the duties of a police officer according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will."

Royal visits[edit]

I have heard a great deal about Tuvalu from my family and I am only sorry I cannot visit other islands, but I understand all of them are represented here today. I am very glad that my first visit to your country should be as Queen of Tuvalu. I come also to you as Head of the Commonwealth.

The Queen of Tuvalu and the Duke of Edinburgh toured Tuvalu between 26 and 27 October 1982. The royal couple were carried around in ceremonial litters and later served with traditional local dishes on a banquet. They also installed the corner-stone of a future Parliament building.[38][39][40] A sheet of commemorative stamps was issued for the royal visit by the Tuvalu Philatelic Bureau.

In 2012, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Tuvalu to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. They toured a number of places. Dressed in colourful grass skirts, they also took part in the traditional dancing.[38]

Republic referenda[edit]

1986 referendum[edit]

In February 1986, a nation-wide referendum was held to ask Tuvaluans whether Tuvalu should remain a constitutional monarchy, with the Queen as its head of state, or become a republic. Only one atoll favoured the republican proposal, while more than 90% voters favoured the retention of the monarchy.[41]

2008 referendum[edit]

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.[42] 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%).[43][44] 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. ^ "Amasone v Attorney General [2003] TVHC 4; Case No 24 of 2003 (6 August 2003)". PACLII. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The Constitution of Tuvalu". PACLII. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "The Constitution of Tuvalu". Tuvalu Islands. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  6. ^ General election, 1974: report / Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony. Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony. Tarawa: Central Government Office. 1974.
  7. ^ Nohlen, D, Grotz, F & Hartmann, C (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume II, p831 ISBN 0-19-924959-8
  8. ^ "Ellice goes it alone on October 1". 46(5) Pacific Islands Monthly. 1 May 1975. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  9. ^ Tito Isala (1983). "Chapter 20, Secession and Independence". In Laracy, Hugh (ed.). Tuvalu: A History. University of the South Pacific/Government of Tuvalu. p. 169.
  10. ^ McIntyre, W. David (2012). "The Partition of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands" (PDF). Island Studies Journal. 7 (1): 135–146. doi:10.24043/isj.266. S2CID 130336446.
  11. ^ The Monarchy Today > Queen and Commonwealth > Members
  12. ^ a b c "The Queen's Role in Tuvalu". Official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  13. ^ a b "Amasone v Attorney General [2003] TVHC 4; Case No 24 of 2003 (6 August 2003)". PACLII. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  14. ^ PASSPORTS ACT (PDF), retrieved 22 October 2021
  15. ^ Davis, Reginald (1976), Elizabeth, our Queen, Collins, p. 36, ISBN 9780002112338
  16. ^ "MAGISTRATES' COURTS (FORMS) RULES" (PDF). Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  17. ^ "Regina v Setaga [2008]". Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  18. ^ Halsbury's Laws of England, volume 12(1): "Crown Proceedings and Crown Practice", paragraph 101
  19. ^ "Role of the JCPC". JCPC. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  20. ^ "ROYAL STYLE AND TITLES ACT" (PDF). Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  21. ^ "The Queen and Tuvalu (style and title)". Official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  22. ^ Clegg, Nick (26 March 2015), Commencement of Succession to the Crown Act 2013 :Written statement - HCWS490, London: Queen's Printer, retrieved 26 March 2015
  23. ^ a b "TUVALU COMMEMORATES 2018'S QUEEN BIRTHDAY". KMT News. 28 June 2018. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  24. ^ The Commonwealth Yearbook 2006, Commonwealth Secretariat, 2006, p. 388, ISBN 9780954962944
  25. ^ "PUBLIC HOLIDAYS ACT" (PDF). Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  26. ^ "Queen's Official Birthday in Tuvalu". Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  27. ^ Some glimpses of celebrations: [1], [2], [3].
  28. ^ "Tuvalu". 24 November 2015. Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  29. ^ Commonwealth Journal: The Journal of the Royal Commonwealth Society · Volumes 12-14, Royal Commonwealth Society, 1969, p. 99
  30. ^ "No. 61967". The London Gazette (6th supplement). 17 June 2017. p. B58.
  31. ^ "No. 61096". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2014. p. N53.
  32. ^ "No. 61455". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 2015. p. N58.
  33. ^ The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, Naval Institute Press, 2002, p. 848, ISBN 9781557502421
  34. ^ Defense & Foreign Affairs Handbook, Perth Corporation, 2002, p. 1754, ISBN 9781892998064
  35. ^ "Constitution of Tuvalu". Pacific Island Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  36. ^ Police Act (PDF), retrieved 6 October 2021
  37. ^ "Royal Visit to Tuvalu". YouTube. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  38. ^ a b "Royal Visits to Tuvalu". 9 November 2021.
  39. ^ "Slide show of Queen Elizabeth II & the Duke of Edinburgh during their visit to Tuvalu in October, 1982". YouTube (video). Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  40. ^ "'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.
  41. ^ Far East and Australasia 2003 Eur, p1113
  42. ^ Chapman, Paul (6 May 2004). "Tuvalu may ditch the Queen and declare a republic". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Archived from the original on 20 June 2004. Retrieved 30 June 2006.
  43. ^ "Tuvalu votes to maintain monarchy", Radio Australia, 17 June 2008
  44. ^ "Tuvaluans vote against republic, Tuvalu News, 30 April 2008

External links[edit]

  • Tuvalu, from the Royal Household