Crown as a symbol of unity in the Defence Forces and as a non-political source of allegiance
Written by Vice Admiral David Leach AC CBE LVO (Rtd)   
Friday, 17 October 2003
Address to the 2003 ACM National Conference
The YWCA Conference Centre
Transcript as released by the Office of Research and Education

VICE ADMIRAL LEACH AC CBE LVO: Executive Director, Ladies and Gentleman As a patron of the Australian Monarchist League, I am pleased to be with you today and hope that our two organisations – the Monarchist League and Australians For Constitutional Monarchy can work together even more closely in the future, because we have essentially the same aim.
It is even more important that we work together, with the announcement of a Senate Inquiry into an Australian Republic. This is in spite of millions of dollars having been spent on the issue of a REPUBLIC over the last decade and its rejection in the 1999 Referendum.

Of course, we will all be paying for this Inquiry with the community participation and the public hearings Australia-wide that have been signalled.
The Monarchist League has been active and successful in countering the previous government’s move to remove the portrait of Her Majesty the Queen from Government offices and diplomatic posts and changing the oath of allegiance. The Crown as a symbol of unity in the Defence Force is summed up well by the Navy motto “FEAR GOD, HONOUR THE QUEEN”.
Some years ago there was a strong rumour that action was being contemplated to remove the ‘ROYAL’ from the services – Australian Navy, Army and Air Force.

I remember this had a profound affect on serving members of all Services and it had the potential of removing the Crown from our symbols and Her Majestys from our ship’s title.

I think also that golf clubs, yacht clubs and others were anxious that their Royal Charters might be thrown out.

While our Constitution is based on the Westminster system it incorporates the idea of a Senate from the U.S., the principles of Federation from Canada and the concept of Referenda from Switzerland.

The Commonwealth is the only organisation that has emerged from the decline of an Empire, and The Queen has a unifying influence over 1.6 billion people in 53 countries.

It is interesting to look back in history on the relationship between the Crown and Armed Services. Our military background is historically constitutional in a unique way. The Australian Constitution specifically authorises the Government by way of the Governor-General in Council to provide for the Defence of the Commonwealth.

Air Marshall Evans is to follow me and talk on the Governor-General as C. in C.

The sentimental links between the Crown and the Australian Defence Force are deep and obvious, as they are too in Britain – all three services in Australia hold Queen’s Colours, which are cherished and paraded on special occasions with Royal Guards of 100 persons. All officers, too, receive their commissions signed by the Governor General.

We should recognise that the Australian Armed Services are direct descendants of their British counterparts and these British origins give our Defence Force a unique tradition, one that proceed hand in glove with the evolution of practical democracy.

Legend has it that Alfred the Great in the 9th Century was the founder of the Royal Navy and that is why the Navy is the Senior Service. However, ships in those days were hardly warships as we know them – more floating platforms capable of carrying armed men.

Henry V built his own fleet for his expedition to France but it was only a means of transport for his army. From around the times of the Crusades, national navies in Western Stales seem to have begun to take on the role and political shape that we recognise today.

By the later stages of the English civil strife – we know as the War of the Roses, King Henry V11, after the fall of his Kinsman Richard III in 1485, was largely successful in laying the foundations of the military supremacy of the Monarch and strengthening the close link between the sovereign and the military establishment.

Henry V11 took a serious interest in Naval Affairs and it was he who commissioned John Cabot to find a way to North America in 1497.

His son Henry VIII created a standing fleet and established facilities, which later became the great Navy yards of Portsmouth, Deptford and Woolwich. By 1547 Henry’s Fleet included 15 ‘great ships’ and 38 smaller vessels.

In 1628, the Lords Commissioner of the office of Lord High Admiral assumed responsibility for the Administration of the Navy.

In 1964, on the reorganisation of the Service Ministries, Elizabeth II assumed the title, though not the office, of Lord High Admiral, but through all the developmental changes, the monarch has always been the titular head, if not the actual head of the Royal Navy and by extension the R.A.N. – and this applies to the other Services. The relationship has always been close and a number of Kings have been serving Naval Officers.

The relationship between the monarch and armies on the other hand has been far more problematic. Armies have been the agents for both making and unmaking monarchs.

Cromwell instituted the first standing Army in Britain. It became a military government after Cromwell clashed with the Parliament.

After the Restoration in 1660, Parliament declared unequivocally that the King was the supreme governor of “the militia and of al forces by sea and land”.

The Army Act of 1881 was a massive piece of legislation, which required another Act to keep it in force each year. This re-affirmed that the command of the Army remained with the King but parliament exercised overwhelming influence because of its control of the purse strings.


Where does this leave the Monarch? (King or Queen) under all the multitudinous Acts of Parliament and within the limits they set, not with standing that she may hold the title of Lord High Admiral and Colonel in Chief of a host of regiments in the Army, or that many of her functions as sovereign are exercised in Australia by the Governor General, under the Constitution of the Commonwealth, the Command, government and disposition of the Navy and Army and by extension the Air Force reside in the Sovereign.

It will never be clear how this can be so to those who lack an understanding of this curious, even paradoxical phenomenon called West Minister system of Government. Some of it is determined by Statute, some by custom and practice and some simply by common sense.

Much of its stems from an ancient characteristic of the British people that every individual is a legal person and has an inalienable right to live a life of his or her own choosing, so long as he or she does not hurt anyone else; that he/she must not be dictated to, nor oppressed, but that when this society is threatened, he/she has both the right and obligation to defend it. This is meaning of freedom.

The British have chosen to articulate this right in the concept of the Crown, since the monarch is given the responsibility to protect and defend the people of the realm. The Crown embodies the union of the monarch and the people. As such it is the symbol of nationhood. If it is necessary to confirm this, one has only to look at the Coronation Oath.

The fact that the Armed Forces are headed by the Sovereign acknowledges the dual right and responsibility under the law. It recognises that the forces are to serve the people and remain at the disposal of the State.

Supreme Legislative authority rests with the Crown in Parliament; Supreme governing authority resides with the Crown in Council. Supreme judicial authority lies with the Courts of the Crown.

Now to quickly address the Crown as a Non-Political Source of Allegiance in the Services.

Air Marshall Evans was the Chief of the Air Force when I was Chief of the Navy from 1982- 1985. In our 3 year posting, we had 4 Ministers, - 2 liberal (Killen and Sinclair) and 2 Labour (Scholes and Beazley)

Very different people with different agendas and it was important that our allegiance to Australia was non- political. It was our duty to argue what we thought was best for Australia, politics apart, but of course loyal to a decision when it was made by Government. And that’s the way it should be.