Why do Channel Islanders call the Queen the Duke of Normandy?

  • Jess Dunsdon examines the history of the Channel Islands' loyalty to royalty...

For almost a thousand years, the reigning British monarch has been known as 'the Duke of Normandy' in the Channel Islands.

While it is an ancient title, it's one that Queen Elizabeth II adopted on her visits to the Channel Islands since her coronation in 1953.

So how did the Queen, the Head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith come to inherit the title?

What is the history of the relationship between the Crown and the Duchy of Normandy?

Historically, the Channel Islands once formed part of the Duchy of Normandy.

In 1066, both Normandy and England came under the rule of William the Conqueror.

In 1204, England lost continental Normandy but the Channel Islands remained a loyal, self-governing possession of the British Crown.

The Treaty of Paris was signed by England and France in 1259. The agreement formalised the relationship between the Channel Islands and the monarchy.

The Channel Islands are the only part of the former Duchy of Normandy that remains loyal to the British monarchy.

Whilst they retain autonomy in government, the islands owe allegiance to the Crown in its role as Duke of Normandy.

Queen Elizabeth II with Jersey's then-Bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache Credit: PA Images

Why was the Queen called 'the Duke', not 'the Duchess' of Normandy?

The 'Duke of Normandy' title remains the same whether the monarch is a man or a woman. Various Kings and Queens have used it over the centuries.

Does the title still get used today?

On her numerous visits to the Channel Islands over the years, Queen Elizabeth II often made reference to her role as 'the Duke of Normandy', although in both Jersey and Guernsey's legislature, the monarch is listed as the head of state without the need for the historic title.

Officials in the islands often toast 'La Reine, Notre Duc' (the Queen, our Duke) at formal celebrations in reference to the local title.

Does Charles inherit the Duke of Normandy title?Not officially - as it isn't actually the Queen's to hand down. King Henry III officially gave up the 'Duke of Normandy' title as part of the Treaty of Paris in 1259.

Centuries later, the title is purely historic - but it remains popular across the Channel Islands as a mark of the islands' unique constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom and the monarchy.