Parliamentary Questions: Absolute owner of land.

Following the 2008 publication of Scat t’Larrups?, which exposed the UK Government/Duchy Administration ’private estate’ deception, Andrew George MP raised three questions in Parliament. The clear intention was to try and force government to disclose the real status of the Duchy of Cornwall and consequent upon that, a measure of the suppressed constitutional differences between Cornwall and England.


 House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for February 11, 2009: Land


Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) who the absolute owner of land is in (a) England, (b) Scotland, (c) Northern Ireland, (d) Wales, (e) Cornwall and (f) the Isles of Scilly; [255057]


Bridget Prentice: The Crown is the ultimate owner of all land in England and Wales (including the Isles of Scilly): all other owners hold an estate in land. Although there is some land that the Crown has never granted away, most land is held of the Crown as freehold or leasehold. If there is no other owner, land will belong to the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall.


Responsibility for land law and succession law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is devolved. Questions about land law in these jurisdictions should be addressed to the Scottish Executive and the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland respectively.


This question appears to be an attempt to get the government to acknowledge the land tenure/partial sovereignty distinction between Cornwall, where the absolute owner of all land is the Duke of Cornwall in right of his Duchy, and places other than Cornwall where the Queen in right of her Crown is absolute owner. The legal principle of having a presumptive, ultimate and absolute owner of all land has important legal and constitutional implications.


There is a discernable difference in the legal status of Duchy-owned properties in Cornwall and those beyond Cornwall. The following scenario best illustrates this. When a company on Duchy land in Wiltshire, Dorset etc goes into liquidation, any unclaimed assets go to the Queen in right of the Crown. When the same thing happens in Cornwall, the assets [not the liabilities] go to the Duke in right of his Duchy. Similarly, when a person dies on a Duchy farm in Devon or a Duchy owned housing estate in London without making a will and without heirs [an intestate estate], their property reverts to the Queen in right of the Crown. When this happens anywhere in Cornwall, the property reverts to the Duke in right of the Duchy.


duke-standard1This is because the whole of Cornwall is a territorial possession not of the Queen in right of her Crown, [the government of the UK], but of the Duke in right of his Duchy [the desperately denied and hidden de jure instrument of Cornish governance]. The legal process is called bona vacantia [vacant goods] and it ensures that land reverts back to its presumptive, ultimate and absolute sovereign owner. The legal mechanisms are enshrined in the Administration of Estates Act 1925 [as amended] and the Companies Act 1985 [as amended]. Two Acts of Parliament that, we are told, are operated by the UK Government through its Treasury Solicitors legal department. However, regards bona vacantia, UK Treasury Solicitors has no jurisdiction in Cornwall. This is why, on the 23rd of August 2004, two quite separate intestate estate notifications appeared in the Western Morning News:


First advert:


White, Joseph Henry White otherwise Joseph White, late of Okehampton Devon, died there on 15 July 1990 [Estate about £6,900]. The kin of the above named are requested to apply to the Treasury Solicitor [BV], Queen Anne’s Chambers, 28 Broadway, London SW1H 9JS, failing which the treasury Solicitor may take steps to administer the estate.


Second advert:


Would the kin of Sidney Horrell who died on 26 September 2003 at Truro, Cornwall, please contact The Solicitor for the Affairs of the Duchy of Cornwall, Farrer & Co, 66 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3LH [Ref: WJF/TRE] [Estate valued at approximately £3,450]



Land is the single most important commodity in the world, for with absolute ownership comes power, control over people, the right to exclude and the ability to sell rights. The basis of UK land law is the presumption that all land belongs to the Crown(1). Everybody else is a tenant of the Crown who holds their land from the Crown [i.e. government].  Hence the Minister saying that “other owners” simply hold of, or occupy, Crown land.


This principle operates on the basis of Right of Conquest, when it was accepted that the sovereign owned all the land and individuals could hold, or rent, land from the king, but at a price – usually cash or fighting men for the king. This is the origin of a leasehold property. Later, when the king required more money, he started selling land ‘freehold’. This meant the tenant could hold or occupy the land free of any charge to a superior. Note that in both cases the land is merely held, not owned. In other words, purchasers did not buy the land; they bought the freehold, or the right to occupy the land without charge. In this way, all individuals except the sovereign were said to hold the land “of” someone else. This is the roots of sovereignty. However, when land became ‘ownerless’ [as in intestate estates or company bankruptcy], it reverted back to the sovereign as absolute owner. This principle still operates today. However, instead of the word ‘sovereign’, the word ‘Crown’ is used as a metaphor for the institution of government - which the sovereign embodies and represents.


grose-map-cornwall-701x550In England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the land is held from the sovereign in right of her Crown. As we have seen from the operation of bona vacantia, this particular aspect of land law does not apply to Cornwall. This is because the whole of Cornwall is legally the soil and territorial possession of the Duke of Cornwall in right of the Duchy of Cornwall and people hold their land not from the Queen as sovereign, but from the Duke as sovereign. Therefore, and in accordance with the terms of the 1st Duchy Charter, people in Cornwall hold their land not from the UK Government, but from a legally extant but now denied and hidden Duchy Government. 


Known today as the Prince’s Council, it is an institution of governance that, whilst reaping the financial benefits and other rewards of this constitutional settlement, abdicates its reciprocal duties and responsibilities towards the territory and people from which it derives its powers, rights and status.


Although Cornwall’s Officers of State still assemble at Buckingham Gate; Cornwall’s Sovereign, Attorney General, Receiver General, Surveyor General, Lord Warden of the Stannaries, Keeper of the Records etc are strenuously re-cast today as simply members of a ‘board of a private estate’ (2). However, it should not go unnoticed that Duchy officers can only act on the basis of the Duke holding extensive autonomous rights and powers in right of his Duchy.


I have explained in my books, on the ‘Status of Duchy’ entry on this weblog and also on the Duchy of Cornwall.eu website, that although laws passed by the Westminster Parliament today always extend to England and Wales, they do not extend to the Duchy of Cornwall unless the text expressly states that they do, and then only with the prior express approval of the Duke in his capacity as the de jure sovereign of Cornwall. As with other sovereigns, when considering new laws the Duke acts on advice from his officers of state sitting as the Princes Council. But how does this hidden twin-sovereign system of governance work in practice?


scatt01We have seen that the Duke’s rights and powers stem from his ability to act “in right of” his Duchy. As revealed in ‘Scat t’Larrups’ [2008] this term is significant. For example, the expression Her Majesty ‘in right of’ Canada, or The Queen ‘in right of’ Canada refers to the executive government of Canada – with the Queen as sovereign. Similarly, the expression, The Crown ‘in right of’ the United Kingdom represents the executive government of the UK, with the Queen as sovereign.


The powers which belong to each Crown “in right of” any particular realm can only be exercised on the advice of the officers of state within each particular realm. For example, the rights which the Crown possess ‘in right of’ the United Kingdom can only be exercised under the advice of British ministers. Similarly, rights which the Crown possesses ‘in right of’ Canada can only be exercised under the advice of Canadian ministers. We now see that the term “in right of” generates an element of mutual jurisdictional exclusion.


As the Duke’s powers derive from his ability to exercise those powers “in right of” his Duchy of Cornwall, the Prince’s Council can advise the Duke, and act for him, in respect of his Duchy but not in respect of the United Kingdom. This is to be expected. However, an unexpected and little publicised consequence is that the principle of mutual jurisdictional exclusion also means that the Queen’s ministers through Parliament cannot freely act or legislate in respect of the Duchy of Cornwall. This is why any Bill, or proposed new law, cannot be made into law until it has been pre-sanctioned by the Duke acting on advice from his own officers of state.


portcullis2We can now see how and why the laws of England and Wales do not necessarily apply to the Duchy of Cornwall. This is why I was able to state some years ago that the Attorney General to the Duchy of Cornwall need not be a member of the ‘Bar Council for England and Wales’, the Duchy Solicitor need not have a Practising Certificate from the ‘England and Wales Solicitors Regulation Authority’ and the Duchy Auditor need not be a Chartered Member of the ‘Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’. (3)


_39356947_tamarbridges203The Westminster Parliament, through Section 41 of The Tamar Bridge Act 1998, neatly summed up this situation when it stated that it would not act to: “prejudice the general law concerning the applicability of statutes to the Duchy of Cornwall”.


This is a stark admission for I am familiar with statute law and I am familiar with common law but the UK government will not provide me with a precise legal definition of the term “general law” as used in the above context.  Neither have I been able to ascertain from government the source of this ‘general law’, its specific applicability or limits.


Clearly, by using this term the UK Parliament is sending a coded message to the sovereign of the Duchy of Cornwall. That message is: the laws we pass do not apply to your domain [but Ministers will always publicly deny that this is the case]. However, actions speak louder than words and Section 41 of the Tamar Bridge Act confirms yet again that the Duchy of Cornwall possesses a legal jurisdiction unto itself - and within this secretive legal domain, a duke becomes king.


duke2And Charles Windsor must be a sovereign, for no other manager of a ‘private estate’ possesses Crown Immunity, the Royal Prerogative, the power to determine the outcome of court cases favourable to his own interests (4) and the right to veto Westminster legislation.



“The King has now granted that the Duke and his successors shall have return of all the king’s writs, summons of the exchequer, pleas of the Crown etc [the actual document lists all royal prerogatives] so that no sheriff, bailiff, or minister of the King shall enter and the Dukes can go about their business without impediment from the King”

                                 The King at Westminster, March 18th 1337.


The above text is part of the second Duchy Charter, which has mysteriously only recently been removed from Halsbury’s Statutes in Force. Today whilst the first Duchy Charter sits on the statute books [albeit with a conveniently modified new translation] government deny all knowledge of the existence and whereabouts of the second and third Duchy Charters. Nevertheless, in practice on these islands ‘The Crown’ is split into two, with each sovereign possessing a different legal persona exercised via demonstrable elements of jurisdictional exclusivity.


So clearly, when in response to Andrew George’s specific question the Minister spoke of ‘The Crown being ultimate owner of land’, she was being less than candid.


John Angarrack 2009


1.      See Explanatory Note 4, Land Registration Act 2002.

2.      See p.190 ‘Our Future is History’ 2002].

3.     See p.161 ‘Our Future is History’ 2002 and in particular the reference to Section 31 of the 1855 Stannaries Act.

4.     Part IV, Section 38 (3) and 40 (2g) 1947 Crown Proceedings Act. See also legal examples given in ‘Ownership of Foreshore‘ page on this website



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