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smirkymonkey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 03:26 PM
Original message
Subject vs. Citizen, What is the Difference?
Pardon me for being an ignorant Yank, but I was wondering if someone could clarify for me the difference between being a British subject vs. a British citizen.

Is it just semantic or is there even such thing as a "British citizen?" Does it have to do w/ just being a Constitutional Monarchy or does it imply something more?

I tossed off a remark in an e-mail to a friend in Ireland and mentioned what I would think about the issue we were discussing if I were a citizen of the UK. He wrote back, rather snarkily, that I would be a "subject" not a citizen. I tried to look it up on google, but couldn't come up with any very good hits explaining the difference.

Could someone explain it for me without being too condescending like my e-mail pal? Thanks!
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LondonAmerican Donating Member (438 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 03:58 PM
Response to Original message
1. no such thing as a british citizen
they're all subjects of the queen. until they declare a republic -- and then they will be citizens.
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smirkymonkey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 04:47 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. But is it, in essence, the same thing?
Or do subjects have different duties/rights than a citizen of a Republic?

I am just curious as to what makes a subject qualitatively different than a citizen.
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LondonAmerican Donating Member (438 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 04:57 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. the idea is that the monarch is sovereign
and those under her are her subjects. whereas in a republic, the citizenry is theoretically sovereign and there are no subjects.
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smirkymonkey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 05:34 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Thanks.
Could you think of an example that would illustrate how this might affect people on the individual level? (sorry, bear with me, I am just trying to understand and I am completely unfamiliar w/ life in a monarchy.)

I suppose I am looking for a description of how this plays out in the lives of real people, or is the distinction pretty much just political and affects the lives of individuals only insignificantly.
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LondonAmerican Donating Member (438 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 07:40 PM
Response to Reply #4
7. there isn't much difference in practice nt.
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T_i_B Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-15-05 07:22 AM
Response to Reply #7
10. IN PRATICE
That's the key part with the British Constitution. Since we don't have a written constitution it does all boil down to pratice.

You can produce all sorts of funny theoretical arguments about the British constitution but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
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LondonAmerican Donating Member (438 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-15-05 07:28 AM
Response to Reply #10
11. indeed nt.
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fedsron2us Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 05:45 PM
Response to Reply #2
5. British citizenship is largely a legal status
Edited on Mon Feb-14-05 06:03 PM by fedsron2us
set out in the British Nationality Act of 1981. Because the UK has no formal written constitution, the rights and duties of the populace are governed by a huge body of statute and common law which is constantly being modified by Parliament and interpreted by the courts. Although the populace of Britain may theoretically still be subjects of the monarchy, in practice there are limits to the powers of the crown even when exercised by the elected government. Most of these restrictions arose from Britain's signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1972 which established the superiority of European Law and set limits on the sovereignty of the British Parliament. It gave the British Courts the power to review Acts of Parliament and in the light of EU legislation, to override Statute Law when it failed to comply with European law. As a result EU legislation and judgments from the European Court of Justice automatically become part of the UK constitution. The UK has also signed the European Convention on Human Rights into its law under the Human Rights Act of 1998. This piece of law is already being used by the courts to restrain the powers of the executive.

http://www.leeds.ac.uk/law/hamlyn/european.htm
http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1998/80042--d.htm

edit for links
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smirkymonkey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 08:46 PM
Response to Reply #5
8. Thank you very much!
That makes it much clearer. That's what I was trying to get at - the power of the state over individuals. Thanks again! :)
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 07:16 PM
Response to Original message
6. See also this earlier part of a thread
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...

'Normal' British passports describe us as "British citizens". There are also, somewhere in the world ,some people whose official status is "British subject" - I think it's people who were members of certain colonies at a certain time (that thread may have sorted it out).
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smirkymonkey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 08:53 PM
Response to Reply #6
9. Great link, thanks!
LibLabUK gives a site that explains much of this, especially the British Nationality Act of 1981

The British Nationality Act 1981

7. The British Nationality Act 1981, which came into force on 1 January 1983, replaced citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies with three separate citizenships:

(a) British citizenship for those persons who had the right of abode in the United Kingdom (as defined in Section 2 of the Immigration Act 1971);

(b) British Dependent Territories citizenship for those connected by birth or descent with a dependent territory;

(c) British Overseas citizenship for those who did not belong to categories (a) or (b) above.
The term "Commonwealth citizen" no longer has the same meaning as "British subject" although persons connected with the Republic of Ireland, India or Pakistan who were British subjects under the 1948 Act (see paragraph 5 above) retain that status under the 1981 Act.

8. Women, whether commonwealth or foreign, no longer have an entitlement to registration, but spouses (of either sex) may apply for naturalisation after three years residence in the UK. Citizenship may now be transmitted through either the male of female line, except that in the case of an illegitimate child it can be acquired only through the mother.

9. In general, since 1 January 1983, it has been possible to acquire British citizenship automatically:


(a) by birth in the UK to a parent who is either a British citizen or settled in the UK under immigration law;

(b) by adoption in the UK by a British citizen parent;

(c) by birth outside the UK to a parent who is a British citizen "otherwise than by descent";

(d) by birth outside the UK to a British citizen parent in Crown, Designated or European Community service.
10. Special rules apply to the acquisition of British citizenship by British Dependent Territories citizens connected with Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands.

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