From 1826 to 1948 regnal years were used as part of the numbering system for Van Diemen’s Land/Tasmanian Statutes. A regnal year is a year of the reign of an English sovereign, with the first day of the first year being the date the King or Queen ascended to the throne.
King William IV came to the throne on 26 June 1830, following the death of King George IV on the same date. The King is dead, long live the King. The first year of William’s reign started on 26 June 1830 and ended on 25 June 1831. The citation for this regnal year was 1 Will IV. Thus on 26 June 1831 William begins the second year of his reign and the citation for the regnal year is 2 Will IV. Citations for William’s reign are listed below:
- 26 June 1830 to 25 June 1831 – 1 Will IV
- 26 June 1831 to 25 June 1832 – 2 Will IV
- 26 June 1832 to 25 June 1833 – 3 Will IV
- 26 June 1833 to 25 June 1834 – 4 Will IV
- 26 June 1834 to 25 June 1835 – 5 Will IV
- 26 June 1835 to 25 June 1836 – 6 Will IV
- 26 June 1836 to 20 June 1837 – 7 Will IV (William died on 20 June 1837)
If William had lived another six days, he would have been into his eighth year as King of England. As he didn’t, there was no regnal year 8 Will IV – except that there was. Three of the Australian colonies, unaware of the death of William and the beginning of Victoria’s reign, continued to pass legislation in the King’s name.
A voyage of up to four months from London to the Australian colonies was not uncommon in the 1830s so it is not surprising that the first news of the death of the King did not reach New South Wales until October 1837.
Prior to this the Legislative Council in Van Diemen’s Land had had quite a busy schedule. In July 1837 they enacted a total of 13 Statutes, with the citations ranging from 8 Will IV No 1 to 8 Will IV No 13. The Council next met in November 1837, switching the monarch in the citation to 1 Vict but keeping the numerical sequence, so the citation for the first Act passed in November was 1 Vict No 14. This can be confusing for researchers, wondering what happened to Statutes Nos 1-13 for the first year of Victoria’s reign.
Both Western Australia and New South Wales also have Acts with 8 Will IV citations.