The core of the estate at its foundation was the 17 Duchy manors in Cornwall. However, the Duchy does not share the same boundaries as the county of Cornwall and a large part of the estate has always lain outside it. Nevertheless, the Duchy has a special relationship with the county. Even today, the High Sheriff of Cornwall is “pricked” or appointed by the Duchy rather than the monarch. The Duchy has the right to ‘present clerical livings’ (appoint priests). It also owns the foreshore (coastline) and fundus (riverbed) around Cornwall and part of south Devon, a legacy of the earlier Earldom.
In 1421, the Duchy acquired 19 manors (mostly Sir Matthew Gourney’s estate in Somerset), transferred to the Duchy by Henry V in exchange for the manor of Isleworth. In Henry VIII’s reign, a number of Cornish manors confiscated after the attainder of Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter, were transferred to the Duchy by Act of Parliament. As a consequence of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Duchy acquired further manors in Cornwall belonging to the former priories of Tywardreath and Launceston.
Under the Commonwealth in the mid-17th century, Duchy estates were surveyed by parliamentary commissioners and subsequently sold, but later recovered at the Restoration.
From 1860 onwards, the Duchy landholding was consolidated, acquiring large estates at Gillingham in Dorset in 1862 and Stoke Climsland in Cornwall in 1880. Also about this time, much building and refurbishment work took place on Duchy farms, the legacy of which remains with us today.
Twentieth century acquisitions to the estate include Maiden Castle in Dorset in 1913, Newton Park in Somerset in 1941 and two Cornish estates, Duloe and Arrallas purchased in 1951 and 1952 respectively. A decade later in 1959, Daglingworth in Gloucestershire was bought and Highgrove in the same county in 1980. Thorney in Cambridgeshire was acquired in 1988 and Cradley in Herefordshire in 1991.
Finally, as recently as 2000, the Duchy purchased the Prudential’s rural portfolio, which is scattered over a number of counties, the bulk being in Herefordshire.