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The arms of the Duchy of Lancaster
The Duchy of Lancaster is one of the two royal duchies in Englandmarker, the other being the Duchy of Cornwall, which are the personal (inherited) property of the monarch. It consists of 46,200 acres (18,700 ha), including key urban developments, historic buildings, and farm land in many parts of England and Wales, as well as large holdings in Lancashiremarker. As of fiscal year 2007, the Duchy is valued at £397 million, with a net profit of £11.9 million, thus yielding 3% return. Income tax is paid voluntarily on all revenue profits from the Duchy of Lancaster distributed to the Sovereign.

In addition to holding land in Lancashire, the Duchy of Lancaster also exerts some powers and ceremonial duties of The Crown in Lancashire and Greater Manchestermarker, Merseyside and the Furness area of Cumbriamarker, which together form the County Palatine of Lancaster. 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, including those areas from the historic county boundaries of Cheshiremarker and Yorkshiremarker.


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, another of the protagonists in the Second Barons' War, were added. In 1267 the estate was formerly 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, the then holder, Henry of Grosmont, Edmund's grandson, was made 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.


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, 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 Duchy.

The chief officer of the Duchy is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a high position which is sometimes a cabinet 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.

The monarch derives the Privy Purse from the revenues of the Duchy. The surplus for the year ended 31 March 2005 was £9.811 million and the Duchy was valued at nearly £310 million. The lands of the Duchy are not to be confused with the Crown Estate, whose revenues have been handed to the Treasury in exchange for the receipt of a yearly civil list payment since the 18th century.

Royal prerogative

“These cases seem clearly to establish the doctrine that all the prerogatives and privileges of theKing belong to him with reference to the lands parcel of the Duchy of Lancaster in no less a degreethan they do with lands which belong to him immediately in right of his Crown”

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 of are divided between two registered charities.

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 and the Companies Act 2006.

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:

  • Chancellor
  • the Vice-Chancellor
  • the Attorney-General of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • Attorney and Serjeant within the County Palatine

Barmote Courts

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.

See also


  2. Maddicott, J. R.(2004) Ferrers, Robert de, sixth earl of Derby (c. 1239–1279), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [accessed 28 Oct 2007]
  3. Preface to The Charters of the Duchy of Lancaster, published under the authority of the Chancellor of the Duchy
  4. - provides an example of Bona Vacantia operating in favour of the Duchy in Gorton in Manchester.
  5. "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
  6. 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

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