The Duchy estate was created in 1337 by Edward III for his son and heir, Prince Edward (later known as The Black Prince) who became the first Duke of Cornwall. The Duchy’s primary function is to provide an income from its assets for The Prince of Wales.
For many centuries it was traditional for families with landed estates to settle the land and other assets in trust, so that each generation could live off the income but were unable to dispose of the assets. This was done to ensure that the estate, and the income which it provided, survived from generation to generation. The same principle was applied to the Duchy of Cornwall.
Under the 1337 charter, and as confirmed by subsequent legislation, The Prince of Wales is not entitled to the proceeds or profit on the sale of assets, and only receives the annual income which they generate, which is voluntarily subject to income tax. Because of the importance of the beneficiary, the Duchy’s ‘trust provisions’ have, over the years, been set out in legislation, with the financial security of the Duchy overseen by HM Treasury.
The Duke chooses to use a large proportion of the income from the Duchy to meet the cost of his public and charitable work. The Duchy also funds the public, charitable and private activities of The Duchess of Cornwall and Princes William and Harry.
The Duchy consists of around 53,408 hectares of land in 23 counties, mostly in the South West of England. The principal activity of the Duchy is the sustainable and commercial management of its land and properties. The Duchy also has a financial investment portfolio.
The agricultural estate consists of arable and livestock farms including some smallholdings. The Duchy promotes high quality residential and commercial building programmes where its land is designated for development by local authorities. Where possible it converts its redundant farm buildings to work places in order to encourage small businesses within the countryside.
Conservation is particularly important and the Duchy encourages its farming tenants to pursue practical conservation measures alongside commercial farming. The estate invests considerably in environmental projects, and The Duke has made the organic Duchy Home Farm at Highgrove an example for others to follow.