Duchy of Lancaster

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The arms of the Duchy of Lancaster

The Duchy of Lancaster is a royal duchy in England, held in trust for the Sovereign[1] and used to provide income for the British monarch. It is one of two royal duchies, the other being the Duchy of Cornwall, which provides income to the Prince of Wales.

The duchy comprises 18,700 ha (46,000 acres), including key urban developments, historic buildings, and farm land in many parts of England and Wales, as well as large holdings in Lancashire.[2] In the financial year ending 31 March 2013, it was valued at circa £429 million.[3] The Sovereign is not entitled to the capital of the portfolio or to capital profits.[3] Revenue profits are distributed to the Sovereign, and are subject to income tax.[4] The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a Government Minister appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister.[5][6] The Chancellor is "answerable to Parliament" for the running of the Duchy.[7][8][9][10]

In addition to holding land in Lancashire, the Duchy of Lancaster also exerts some powers and ceremonial duties of the Crown in Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and the Furness area of Cumbria, which are all partly or entirely within the County Palatine of Lancashire. Since the Local Government Act 1972, the Duchy holds and exerts the right to appoint Sheriffs and Lords Lieutenant in the ceremonial counties of Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and Lancashire, which include areas from the historic county boundaries of Cheshire and Yorkshire.[11]


The standard of the Duchy of Lancaster

The Duchy of Lancaster was created for John of Gaunt, a younger son of King Edward III of England, when John had acquired its constituent lands through marriage to the Lancaster heiress. As the Lancaster inheritance it goes back to 1265, when Henry III granted to his younger son, Edmund, lands forfeited by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. In 1266, the estates of Robert de Ferrers, 6th Earl of Derby,[12] another of the protagonists in the Second Barons' War, were added. In 1267 the estate was formally granted as the County, Honour and Castle of Lancaster. In 1284 Edmund was given the Manor of Savoy by his mother, Queen Eleanor, the niece of the original grantee, Peter II, Count of Savoy. King Edward III raised Lancashire into a county palatine in 1351, and the holder, Henry of Grosmont, Edmund's grandson, was created Duke of Lancaster. After his death a charter of 1362 conferred the dukedom on his son-in-law John of Gaunt, Earl of Lancaster, and the heirs male of his body lawfully begotten for ever.

The first act of King Henry IV was to declare that the Lancastrian inheritance be held separately from the other possessions of the Crown, and should descend to his male heirs. This separation of identities was confirmed in 1461 by Edward IV when he incorporated the inheritance and the palatinate responsibilities under the title of the Duchy of Lancaster, and stipulated that it be held separate from other inheritances by him and his heirs, Kings of England. The Duchy thereafter effectively passed to the reigning monarch and its separate identity preserved it in 1760 from being surrendered with the Crown Estates in exchange for the Civil List. It is primarily a landed inheritance belonging to the reigning sovereign.

Lancaster County Palatine Acts 1794 to 1871[edit]

The Lancaster County Palatine Acts 1794 to 1871 was the collective title of the following Acts:[13]


The duchy is not the property of the Crown, but is instead the personal (inherited) property of the monarch and has been since 1399, when the Dukedom of Lancaster, held by Henry of Bolingbroke (Henry IV), merged with the crown on his appropriation of the throne (after the dispossession from Richard II). The Loyal Toast, "The Queen, the Duke of Lancaster" is still in frequent use within the County Palatine.

The chief officer of the Duchy is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a high position which is sometimes a cabinet post but always a ministerial post. Since for at least the last two centuries the estate has been run by a deputy, the Chancellor has rarely had any significant duties pertaining to management of the Duchy itself. He is usually available as a minister without portfolio. In recent times his duties, administrative, financial and legal, have been said to occupy an average of one day a week.[citation needed]

The monarch derives the Privy Purse from the revenues of the Duchy. The surplus for the year ended 31 March 2010 was £13.382 million and the Duchy was valued at nearly £348 million.[14] The lands of the Duchy are not to be confused with the Crown Estate, whose revenues have been handed to the Treasury since the 18th century in exchange for the receipt of a yearly civil list payment.

Royal prerogative[edit]

The historical boundary of the county of Lancashire, England, shown in red, and the modern-day boundary (since 1974), shown in green. Also shown in dotted green are the modern-day local government districts and unitary authorities of ceremonial Lancashire

"These cases seem clearly to establish the doctrine that all the prerogatives and privileges of the King belong to him with reference to the lands parcel of the Duchy of Lancaster in no less a degree than they do with lands which belong to him immediately in right of his Crown."[15]

Both the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall have special legal rights not available to other estates held by peers, counties palatine, for example, bona vacantia operates to the advantage of the Duke rather than the Crown throughout the historic Duchy. Proceeds from bona vacantia in the Duchy are divided between two registered charities.[16][17] Bona vacantia arises, in origin, by virtue of the Royal Prerogative and in some respects this remains the position although the right to bona vacantia of the two major categories is now based on statute: Administration of Estates Act 1925[18] and the Companies Act 2006.[19]

There are also separate attorneys general for the estates. Generally, though, the exemptions all tend to follow the same line: any rights pertaining to the Crown generally in most areas of the country instead pertain to the Duke in the Duchy. Generally, any Act of Parliament relating to rights of this kind will specifically set out the special exemptions for the two Duchies and specify the extent to which they apply to the Duchy. They are also, however, subject to strict regulation, especially with respect to auditing and alienation of land.


Officers of the Duchy include:

Barmote Courts[edit]

The Chancellor of the Duchy is responsible for the appointment of the Steward and the Barmaster of the Barmote Courts on behalf of The Queen in right of Her Duchy.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Privy Purse and Duchy of Lancaster". Royal Household. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  2. ^ "Properties and Estates". Duchy of Lancaster. 3 December 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  3. ^ a b "Annual Report 2013". Duchy of Lancaster. 31 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "Taxation". Royal Household. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  5. ^ "FAQs". Duchy of Lancaster. 26 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  6. ^ "The Government, Prime Minister and Cabinet". UK Government. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 
  7. ^ Vernon Bogdanor (November 1995). The Monarchy and the Constitution. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 188. ISBN 0-19-827769-5.  The statement in the book is sourced to "Kenneth Clarke, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in Hansard, Standing Committee G, col 11, 17 Nov 1987"
  8. ^ "Departmental Land-Duchy of Lancaster". They Work For You. 21 July 2008. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  9. ^ "Hansard Written Answers and Statements". TheyWorkForYou. 14 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  10. ^ "Duchy Council". TheyWorkForYou. 6 December 2006. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  11. ^ "Palatine High Sheriffs". Duchy of Lancaster. 20 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  12. ^ Maddicott, J. R. (2004). "Ferrers, Robert de, sixth earl of Derby (c. 1239–1279)". In H.G.C. Matthew, Brian Harrison. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-861411-1. 
  13. ^ The Short Titles Act 1896, section 2(1) and Schedule 2
  14. ^ "Accounts, Annual Reports and Investments". The Duchy of Lancaster. 18 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  15. ^ "The Charters of the Duchy of Lancaster". Chancellor of the Duchy. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  16. ^ "Benevolent Fund Trustees". Duchy of Lancaster. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  17. ^ "Terraced house 'belongs to Queen'". BBC News. 3 August 2006. Retrieved 3 January 2010.  — provides an example of bona vacantia operating in favour of the Duchy in Gorton in Manchester.
  18. ^ "In default of any person taking an absolute interest under the foregoing provisions, the residuary estate of the intestate shall belong to the Crown or to the Duchy of Lancaster or to the Duke of Cornwall for the time being, as the case may be, as bona vacantia, and in lieu of any right to escheat." Administration of Estates Act 1925 Section 46
  19. ^ Section 1016 of the Companies Act 2006 defines the Crown Representative in relation to property vested in the Duchy of Lancaster, as being the Solicitor to that Duchy
  20. ^ "Barmote Courts". Duchy of Lancaster. 26 January 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2011.  (archived copy of page)

External links[edit]