MacCormick v Lord Advocate

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Last modified: 07/03/18 Author: In-house law team

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MacCormick v Lord Advocate (1953) SC 396

Whether Queen Elizabeth II could use ‘II’ in Scotland where there had never been an Elizabeth I; consideration of judicial and legislative jurisdiction over the Act of Union 1707.


The claimants, MacCormick and Hamilton, brought an action against the Crown in Scotland which contested Queen Elizabeth using the title ‘Queen Elizabeth II’ within Scotland, as technically Scotland had never had a monarch entitled Queen Elizabeth I, only England had. Thus, the claimants posited it was a breach of administrative and constitutional law, as per the Act of Union 1707 between England and Scotland. 


Whether Queen Elizabeth II was infringing upon administrative law in her use of the numeral ‘II’.


At first instance, the case was dismissed, and subsequently appealed to the Inner House of Scotland. The Court found for the defendants, stating that the Act of Union 1707 included no provisions regarding the numbering in monarchs’ titles, and it was within the realm of the royal prerogative to decide upon one’s title. Subsequently, there were no grounds on which to sue the Crown.

The judgment aroused interest as the Court’s Lord President did note that the notion of Parliamentary sovereignty being unlimited was ‘distinctively English’ and lacking a Scottish counterpart, thus meaning that the UK Parliament lacks the ability to alter key aspects of the Act of Union 1707. However, the Lord President also noted that there was a complete absence of authority on the matter of whether national Courts in Scotland or England could determine whether Governmental actions were in breach of the Act and thus the Court was uncertain whether they held the authority to issue a determinative statement on the instant case.

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