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Duchy of Cornwall


Duchy of Cornwall

The arms of the Duchy of Cornwall

The Duchy of Cornwall (Cornish: Duketh Kernow) is one of two royal duchies in England, the other being the Duchy of Lancaster. The eldest son of the reigning British monarch inherits possession of the duchy and title of Duke of Cornwall at birth or when his/her parent succeeds to the throne, but may not sell assets for personal benefit and has limited rights and income as a minor. If the monarch has no male children, the rights and responsibilities of the duchy belong to The Crown and there is no Duke. The current duke is Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

The principal activity of the duchy is the management of its land totalling 135,000 acres or 550 km2.[1] Nearly half of the holdings are in Devon, with other large holdings in Cornwall, Herefordshire, Somerset and almost all of the Isle of Scilly. The duchy also has a financial investments portfolio.[2] For the fiscal year ending 31 March 2013, the duchy was valued at £763 million, and annual profit was £19 million, a revenue surplus gain of 4.1% from the previous year.[3]

The Duchy Council meets twice a year.[1] The duchy also exercises certain legal rights and privileges across Cornwall, including some that elsewhere in England belong to the crown. For the County, the Duke appoints a number of officials and is the port authority for the main harbour of the Isles of Scilly.

The government considers the duchy to be a crown body and therefore exempt from paying corporation tax. The tax position of the duchy has been challenged; thus, since 1993, the Prince of Wales has voluntarily paid income tax on the duchy income less amounts which he considers to be official expenditure.[4]


  • History 1
    • The duchy in the Interregnum, 1649–1660 1.1
    • Post-Interregnum 1.2
  • Property 2
  • Legal status and additional rights 3
  • Taxation 4
  • Coat of arms 5
  • Loyal Toast 6
  • Offices 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


The duchy was established on March 17, 1337 by the Royal Great Charter out of the former Earldom of Cornwall by Edward III for his son, Edward, Prince of Wales, the "Black Prince", who became the first Duke of Cornwall.[5] A few more charters were issued by Edward III regarding the duchy. The duchy consisted of two parts: the title and honour, and the landed estate that supported it financially.[6] The core of the estate at its foundation was the 17 duchy manors found within the county. The duchy does not share the same boundaries as the county, and much of the estate has always been outside those boundaries. However, the duchy maintains a special relationship with Cornwall, and maintains various rights, such as that of appointing the county's High Sheriff. The extent of the estate has varied as various holdings have been sold and acquired over the years, both within Cornwall and also in other counties.[7]

Duke Edward then ordered a survey called "The Caption of Seisin of the Duchy of Cornwall" in May 1337 to determine the extent Duchy holding of the Cornish land including manors, castles, knights's fees, profits of the Stannary courts, shrievalty of Cornwall and other revenues. The Caption also included borough surveys, some burgesses lists, claims to liberties, charter copies and free tenant and villeinage censuses.[8]

The subsequent charter of Henry IV to Prince Henry stated:

We have made and created Henry our most dear first-begotten Son, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester, and have given and granted, and by our Charter have confirmed to him the said Principality, Duchy, and Earldom, that he may preside there, and by presiding, may direct and defend the said parts. We have invested him with the said Principality, Duchy, and Earldom, per sertum in capite et annulum in digito aureum ac virgam auream juxta morem.

By this charter, all the manors of the earldom passed to the duchy and are known as the Antiqua maneria while those manors outside Cornwall but attached to the duchy, but not consider a part of the duchy but as the prince's land, by the creation charter are known as the forinseca maneria (foreign manors). Additional incorporated estates were called the annexata maneria by the seventeenth-century.[9][10]

The duchy in the Interregnum, 1649–1660

On the death of King Charles I, the Crown lands came under the control of Parliament; this lasted until the restoration of King Charles II in 1660.[11]


In 1975, Charles established the Duke of Cornwall’s Benevolent Fund to benefit south west communities, with revenue coming from the net proceeds from Cornwall bona vacantia.[12] In 1988, West Dorset District Council allocated land in the ducal estate, west of Dorchester,[13] for housing development, which became known as Poundbury.[14] The Duchy Originals company was set up in 1992 to use produce from farms on the ducal estate, with some proceeds going to his charities. Duchy Originals was licensed out to Waitrose in 2009 after losses in 2008.[15]

Under the Land Registration Act 2002, the Duchy was required by October 2013 to have filed with the Land Registry mineral rights given to the Duchy in 1337. Some land owners of Talskiddy were surprised that these rights would be expressly inserted into their registers of title upon being informed of the filing in February 2012.[16]

In 2013, the Duchy's office in Cornwall moved from Liskeard to Restormel Manor's old farm buildings.[17] In 2014, the Duchy purchased the southern half of the Port Eliot estate from Lord St Germans.[18] By 2015, Prince William, had started attending the twice-yearly Duchy Council.[1]


The largest rural portfolio office at Newton St Loe, near Bath. This is the office of the Eastern District, centralised finance and property services, and the Estate Surveyor.

By the seventeenth century, the Ducal estates were classified as being a part of one of three groups:

  1. Antiqua maneria, the ancient manors of the Earl within Cornwall
  2. forinseca maneria (foreign manors), those manors outside Cornwall but attached to the duchy, but not considered a part of the duchy but as the prince's land, by the creation charter
  3. annexata maneria, or annexed manors, those manors added to the Duchy holdings[9]

The duchy owns (531.3 square kilometres (205.1 sq mi) — 0.20% of UK land) over 23 counties, including farming, residential, and commercial properties, as well as an investment portfolio.[19][20] In modern times, the considerable income from the duchy has been the primary source of income for the Prince of Wales, both as to personal funds and public and charitable work.[19] The estates are the source of land management work of seven offices:

forinseca maneria
type name
honour[10] Berkhamsted
St. Valery
Manor Byfleet[10]
fee-farm City of Exeter
manor Lydford
chace (forest) Dartmoor (part of Lydford)
manor and Borough Bradninch
Water and River Dartmouth
manor Meere
Castle Rising

The duchy was created with the express purpose of providing income to the heir apparent to the throne; since 2011, the eldest child of the monarch. This heir, the Duke of Cornwall has the 'interest in possession' of the duchy's assets (such as estates) which means they enjoy its net income, do not have its outright ownership and do not have the right to sell capital assets for their own benefit.[24]

In 2010, the duchy generated £17.1 million in income. In 1913 the Government Law Officers gave an opinion that the Duke of Cornwall is not liable to taxation on income from the Duchy.[25][26] However, since 1993 Prince Charles has voluntarily agreed to pay income tax at the normal rates (see: Finances of the British Royal Family). Approximately half of this income was spent on public and charitable works.[24]

Since the passing into law of the Sovereign Grant Act 2011, revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall will pass to the heir to the throne, regardless of whether that heir is the Duke of Cornwall. In the event that the heir is a minor, 10% of the revenues will pass to the heir, with the balance passing to the Crown.[27]

Most property is tenanted out, particularly farm land, while the forest land and holiday cottages are managed directly by the Duchy. The estate's holiday cottage business is centered on Restormel Manor, near Lostwithiel.[17] The Duchy owns The Oval cricket ground in London, which was built on land in Kennington that formed part of the original Duchy estate.[17][23] The Duchy has ventured into planned development with Poundbury, near Dorchester in Dorset.[14][13]

Legal status and additional rights

Both the Duchy of Cornwall and the Duchy of Lancaster — since 1399 held by the monarch in a personal capacity—have special legal rights not available to other landed estates: for example, the rules on bona vacantia, the right to ownerless property, operate in favour of the holders of the duchies rather than the Crown, such that the property of anyone who dies in the county of Cornwall without a will or identifiable heirs, and assets belonging to dissolved companies whose registered office was in Cornwall, pass to the duchy.[28][29] In 2007, £130,000 was realised from the right of bona vacantia, and given to a charitable fund. The duke owns freehold about three-fifths of the Cornish foreshore and the 'fundus', or bed, of navigable rivers and has right of wreck on all ships wrecked on Cornish shores, including those afloat offshore, and also to "Royal fish", i.e. whales, porpoises, and sturgeon.[30] The Duchy of Cornwall is the Harbour Authority for St Mary's Harbour.[31] There are separate attorneys-general for the duchies. The High Sheriff of Cornwall is appointed by the Duke of Cornwall, not the monarch, in contrast to the other counties of England and Wales.[32] The duke had a ceremonial role in summoning the Cornish Stannary Parliament.

In Bruton v. ICO the first tier tribunal found that the duchy was a public authority for the purposes of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.[33] MP for St Ives, commented that "The duchy asserts that it is merely a private estate. Most people will be astonished to learn that it appears to have effective powers of veto over the government."[34] Writing in the Guardian, lawyer David Gollancz commented that: "The duchy exercises a unique range of legal powers, which elsewhere are reserved for the crown.... It seems anomalous, and worrying, that such a huge estate, created and conferred by law and exercising significant legal powers, should be able to escape public scrutiny by calling itself a private estate."[35] The requirement for the Prince of Wales to give consent to draft bills that could affect the interests of the Duchy of Cornwall is not a new power granted to Prince Charles, but a centuries-old parliamentary practice that involved the same requirement for consent being conferred on previous Dukes of Cornwall (see Prince's Consent).

For some Cornish activists, Cornwall itself is described, de jure, as a duchy as opposed to an ordinary county, and the duchy estates are distinguished from the duchy itself, having themselves been annexed and united to "the aforesaid duchy".[36] The Royal Commission on the Constitution in 1973 recommended that Cornwall be officially referred to as "the duchy" on what it described as "appropriate occasions" given the nature of the county's "special relationship" with the Crown.[37][38] The designation is sometimes found used informally in respect of the county as whole.

Historically all justices of the Assizes who visited Cornwall were also permanent members of the Prince's Council which oversees the Duchy of Cornwall and advises the Duke. There are on record at least three instances in which the prince over-ruled the king by instructing his officials to ignore or disobey orders issued to them by the King's Chancery.[39]


The government considers the duchy to be a crown body and therefore Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state, has asked HM Revenue and Customs to investigate if the duchy should still be exempt from tax. The tax exemption is based on the assumption that the duchy estate is inseparable from the tax exempt person of Prince Charles, which is now open to question.[40]

Since 1993, the Prince of Wales has voluntarily paid income tax on the duchy income less amounts which he considers to be official expenditure.[41] The Prince paid a voluntary contribution to the treasury of 50% of his Duchy income from the time he became eligible for its full income at the age of 21 in 1969, and paid 25% from his marriage in 1981 until the current arrangement commenced in 1993. Tax is calculated after deducting official expenditure, the biggest source of which is the Prince's staff of about 110 who assist with his performance of official duties, including private secretaries and a valet working in his office at Clarence House and at Highgrove House. The official expenditure of the Prince of Wales is not audited by the National Audit Office.

Coat of arms

Coat of arms

The armorial bearings of the Duchy of Cornwall are as follows:[42]

Arms: Sable, fifteen bezants, five, four, three, two, one.[43]

Supporters: On either side, a Cornish chough proper supporting an ostrich feather Argent, penned Or.[44][45]

Motto: Houmont[42] (or Houmout), meaning courage.[46][47]

The heraldic shield is ensigned with the Heir Apparent's coronet.[48] The supporters were granted by Royal Warrant of 21 June 1968.[42]

Loyal Toast

Traditionally, Cornish people refer to the Duke of Cornwall in the Loyal Toast, much like the Duke of Normandy in the Channel Islands.[49]


  • Attorney-General
  • Auditor
  • Chancellor (Keeper of the Great Seal)
  • Lord Steward,[50] High Steward[51] or Seneschal[52]
  • Vice-Admiral of the Duchy of Cornwall[53]
  • High Sheriff of Cornwall
  • Keeper of the Privy Seal
  • Keeper of the Records
  • Lord Warden of the Stannaries
  • Receiver-General
  • Solicitor-General
  • Surveyor-General
  • Vice-Warden of the Stannaries
  • Cornwall Herald[54]

See also


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^
  6. ^ About the Duchy: Duchy of Cornwall official site.
  7. ^ "History of the Duchy". Duchy of Cornwall official site
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ a b c
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b c
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b
  20. ^ David Burnett A Royal Duchy: a Portrait of the Duchy of Cornwall; p. 9
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^ a b Id.
  25. ^ 1913 Opinion on the Duchy of Cornwall by the Law Officers of the Crown and Mr W Finley. Confirm or Deny (22 February 1999). Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  26. ^
  27. ^ [1]
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ Kirkhope, above.
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ [2]
  34. ^ Booth, Robert (30 October 2011), "Prince Charles has been offered a veto over 12 government bills since 2005", The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  35. ^ Gollancz, David (30 October 2011). "Prince Charles's legislation veto shows the duchy is no ordinary private estate", The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  36. ^ The reports of Sir Edward Coke, knt: in thirteen parts, Volume 1; By Sir Edward Coke, John Henry Thomas, John Farquhar Fraser, Stephen (INT) Sheppard
  37. ^ Kilbrandon Report, The Times, 1 November 1973
  38. ^ Kilbrandon Report paragraph 329 – 1969–73 the Royal Commission on the Constitution (Kilbrandon Report) had this to say about Cornwall—under "National feeling".
  39. ^ Pearse, Richard. Aspects of Cornwall's Past. Dyllansow Truran, Redruth, 1983, p52.
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^ a b c Briggs, Geoffrey, Civic and Corporate Heraldry (1971), p. 122.
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^ [3]
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^ Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons Official Report, Standing Committees Session 1972–73, Volume VI, H.M. Stationery Office.
  50. ^ J. C. D. Clark, The Memoirs and Speeches of James, 2nd Earl Waldegrave 1742–1763, Cambridge University Press, 2002
  51. ^ Robert Folkestone Williams, Domestic Memoirs of the Royal Family and of the Court of England: Chiefly at Shene and Richmond, Hurst and Blackett, 1860
  52. ^ Lives of Learned and Eminent Men: Taken from Authentic Sources, 1823
  53. ^ Edmund Lodge, The Peerage of the British Empire as at Present Existing: Arranged and Printed from the Personal Communications Pf the Nobility, by Edmund Lodge, to which is Added a View of the Baronetage of the Three Kingdoms, Saunders and Otley, 1834
  54. ^ Francis Jones, The Princes and principality of Wales, University of Wales Press, 1969

Further reading

  • Kirkhope, John (2013) The Duchy of Cornwall: a feudal remnant? : an examination of the origin, evolution and present status of the Duchy of Cornwall. Ph.D. thesis, University of Plymouth

External links

  • Official website
    • .uk.costmarys-harbour Duchy of Cornwall St Mary's Harbour in Scilly, Cornwall
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