The Duchy of Cornwall is a well-managed private estate, which was established by Edward III in 1337. The revenues from the estate are passed to HRH The Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall, who chooses to use them to fund his public, charitable and private activities. The Duchy consists of around 52,449 hectares of land in 20 counties, mostly in the South West of England. The principal activity of the Duchy is the sustainable, commercial management of its land and properties. The Duchy also has a financial investment portfolio.
Dukes of Cornwall have traditionally managed their own estates. The current Duke has been actively involved with the estate for a number of years. He now takes over its leadership.
The Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall (Accounts) Act 1838 gave the Treasury a role to ensure that actions taken by any Duke when managing the Duchy cannot compromise the long-term value of the estate. For this reason the Treasury must, for example, approve all property transactions with a value of £500,000 or more. The Duchy’s annual accounts are laid before the House of Commons and the House of Lords so that Parliament can be satisfied that the Treasury is fulfilling its statutory responsibilities.
The "board" of the Duchy is The Prince's Council, which meets twice a year and is chaired by His Royal Highness. With the exception of the Secretary and Keeper of the Records, The Prince's Council is a non-executive body which provides advice to His Royal Highness with regard to the management of the Duchy.
HM King Charles III took over the running of the estate as Duke of Cornwall when he was 21, in 1969.
In 2022, he celebrated 70 years as Duke of Cornwall, making His Majesty the longest-serving Duke of Cornwall in the estate's history. Over the last few years, HRH Prince William, the current Prince of Wales, has worked with his father managing the estate and has now taken over full responsibility for the estate leadership.
No. While the two Duchies have similarities, the management and control of the Duchy of Cornwall is entirely separate to that of the Duchy of Lancaster. The Duchy of Lancaster’s main purpose is to provide income for the Sovereign as Duke of Lancaster.
Under the 1337 charter, The Prince of Wales is not entitled to the proceeds or profit on the sale of capital assets – and only receives the annual income which they generate, which is voluntarily subject to income tax.
To ensure that the estate is protected effectively, and for the benefit of future generations, the Duchy’s ‘trust provisions’ have, over the years, been set in legislation, with the financial security of the Duchy overseen by HM Treasury. For example, all property transactions with a value of £500,000 or more are approved by the Treasury.
The Duchy of Cornwall estate is not a corporation and therefore not subject to Corporation tax. However, The Prince does pays income tax on the Duchy’s surplus. If the Duchy also paid corporation tax, the Prince would effectively be taxed twice on the same income. Only companies pay corporation tax; many other large organisations which are not companies pay income tax.
The Prince pays capital gains tax but not in respect of the Duchy of Cornwall because he does not receive the capital gains (as he is not entitled to the capital assets). Although the Duchy is exempt from capital gains tax, the Duchy’s capital gains have to be reinvested in the business and cannot be distributed.
The Duchy estate and the Treasury and have considered this and do not believe that the Duchy’s tax status impacts on the marketplace. The Duchy of Cornwall is a private estate which has Crown exemption. The Duke of Cornwall (The Prince of Wales) pays tax as agreed in the published Memorandum of Understanding. He does not pay capital gains tax since he does not receive the Duchy’s capital gains. The Duke does pay income tax on his income from the Duchy of Cornwall. The Treasury and Duchy do not believe that in practice these arrangements have a material effect on the property market.
At the Treasury's request, the Duchy of Cornwall has tested this proposition. It has reviewed its 12 large property transactions over the past three years. The prices at which they took place all reflected the then current open market prices. Deals were normally negotiated through independent agents and disposals for development often included overage to reflect future price movements. A fuller account of this is available here.
The Treasury only has a very specific remit. Under the Duchy of Cornwall Management Acts the Treasury must seek to ensure that the estate's capital is protected for future generations. The Treasury role and the management of this role is explained within the attached Memorandum of Understanding.
Since 1337, the revenues from the Duchy have either passed to an eldest surviving son and heir or where there has not been one, the Sovereign. These revenues can be spent as the Heir or Sovereign see fit. However the current Prince of Wales chooses to use a substantial proportion of his income from the Duchy estate to meet the cost of his public and charitable work as well as the public and private lives of his immediate family.
The Duchy’s accounts are audited by a professional auditor. Through the Treasury, these are laid before the House of Commons and the House of Lords so that Parliament can be satisfied that the Treasury is fulfilling its statutory responsibilities. The accounts are now published as part of the Integrated Annual Report, available here.
The Duchy lets agricultural, residential and commercial property. The turnover of tenants is very low and vacancies are relatively rare. These are usually advertised in the local press or through local letting agents and on the Lettings Page of this website. If you are aware of property that you want to rent, you should contact the local Duchy office.
It is a long established convention that The Prince, as Duke of Cornwall, is asked by Parliament to provide consent to those bills which Parliament has decided would affect Duchy of Cornwall interests. The same process is followed with regards to The King providing consent to bills that would affect Crown interests. In modern times, neither The Sovereign nor The Duke of Cornwall has ever refused to consent to any bill affecting Crown or Duchy of Cornwall interests. Every instance of The Prince’s consent having been sought and given to legislation is a matter of public record.
Please check with the relevant Duchy District Office and also take legal advice as to whether your property is eligible for a lease extension. Further information is available here.
Please check with the relevant Duchy District Office and also take legal advice as to whether the property you currently lease may be eligible for an application to obtain the freehold. In circumstances where the property is potentially eligible there is a statutory form that needs to be completed and submitted to the relevant Duchy District Office, who will pass the application to the Duchy Solicitor for consideration. Further information is available here.
The reason behind the current applications to register mines and minerals is that due to a change in the law, the Duchy of Cornwall, along with other owners of manorial rights across the country, is required to register all its manorial mineral rights with HM Land Registry in order to preserve them for the future.
This does not mean that new rights are being created, as these mineral rights have belonged to the Duchy for many centuries. Much of the land beneath which the Duchy is registering its mineral rights was occupied by tenants of the Duchy until the mid-nineteenth century when it became possible for tenants to buy the freehold of their leased land – leaving the mines and minerals reserved to the Duchy – by virtue of the Duchy of Cornwall (No 2) Act of 1844. Gradually, over the next 80-90 years, most of the former leasehold land within the affected areas was bought from the Duchy by the tenants at nominal sums, leaving the Duchy in possession only of the mines and minerals which is the position today. This application is solely to protect those rights, and does not indicate that the Duchy has any present intention to work the minerals.
The Duke of Cornwall’s Benevolent Fund
In Cornwall, when an individual dies with no will or surviving relatives their property (or ‘estate’) passes to The Duke of Cornwall. The same is true on the dissolution of a company registered in Cornwall where any remaining assets pass to The Duke of Cornwall. This is known as bona vacantia.
After any discretionary and cost payments have been made, His Royal Highness chooses to donate all monies from bona vacantia to charity.
Neither The Duke of Cornwall nor the Duchy of Cornwall benefit financially from Bona Vacantia in any way.
No money from The Duke of Cornwall’s Bona Vacantia entitlement is paid to the Sovereign Grant for members of the Royal Family.
About bona vacantia
Part of the common law of England, “bona vacantia” is the legal name for ownerless property. All rights to bona vacantia originally belonged to the Crown – however some have been granted away from time to time.
In the case of the Crown, and since William IV’s reign, these rights have been included among the hereditary revenues surrendered in return for the Civil List. Such cases are therefore dealt with by the Treasury solicitor. However, this does not apply in the counties of Lancashire and Cornwall. Here, bona vacantia is dealt with by the respective Duchies.
The procedures for the administration of bona vacantia in Cornwall are very similar to those of the Treasury Solicitor (see: www.bonavacantia.gov.uk). Discretionary payments may be available to those, who might reasonably have expected to benefit from the estate of the deceased.
Bona vacantia is administered by Farrer & Co on behalf of the Duchy.