The sovereign is the head of state who reigns by hereditary right, as opposed to the elected head of government. In Canada, a constitutional monarchy, the sovereign is one of the 3 components of Parliament. Since the 16th century some 32 French and British kings and queens have reigned over Canada. In 1867 the Fathers of Confederation vested executive authority and many statutory responsibilities in Queen Victoria, her heirs and successors. In 1947, under Letters Patent issued by George VI, all of the sovereign's powers and authorities in Canada were delegated to the Governor General. Contrary to popular belief, the sovereign's presence in Canada does not supersede this delegation except when the sovereign is actually asked to perform specific royal functions, eg, the opening of Parliament. George VI was the first reigning sovereign to visit Canada. In the spring of 1939 he toured with his consort, Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), and on May 19 gave royal assent to several Canadian Bills in the Senate Chamber.

On 6 February 1952 Elizabeth II became sovereign, and in 1953 the Canadian Royal Style and Titles Act officially entitled her Queen of Canada. Her full title is "Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, Canada, and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith." In 1957 she was the first sovereign to open the Canadian Parliament. She opened Parliament again for her Silver Jubilee in 1977, and on 17 April 1982 she proclaimed the Canadian Constitution. February 2002 marked the 50th anniversary of the Queen's accession to the Throne. Only four earlier monarchs have achieved the Golden Jubilee milestone. In the course of her fifty-year reign, she has undertaken more official duties and met more of her subjects than any of her predecessors.

See alsoCrown; Royal Tours.