Canada is a constitutional monarchy. Since 1534, when the King of France claimed possession of what is now Canada, the history of our country has been marked by the reigns of an uninterrupted succession of monarchs, both French and British, who have had a significant influence on our country's development.
Under the Crown, Canada developed first as a colony of two empires, originally the French and subsequently the British, then as an independent dominion, and now as an entirely sovereign nation. The Crown occupies a central place in our Parliament and our democracy, founded on the rule of law and respect for rights and freedoms; the Crown embodies the continuity of the state and is the underlying principle of its institutional unity. The Crown is fused to all three branches of government. The Prime Minister, as head of the Executive, is the Governor General's principal advisor; the Crown is also a constituent element of Parliament, with the Senate and the House of Commons; and finally, all decisions made by the courts are given in the Crown's name.
The most important characteristic of Canada's constitu-tional monarchy has been its ability to adapt to changing conditions over the course of our evolution from colony to nation. In the Senate Foyer and the Salon de
la Francophonie hang the portraits of the kings and queens in whose names our laws have been, and continue to be, enacted.