Some Duchy Propaganda

The Centre for South Western Historical Studies was established by the University of Exeter in 1985 to promote historical research into all aspects of the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset and to link individuals and institutions engaged in such research. The following text is from its Spring 1997 Newsletter:


Editors note: This issue contains the revised Local Studies Guide. Letters were sent to each body in the guide requesting current details and I would like to thank all those who have responded as well as those who sent letters of interest. It is difficult keeping the details accurate and the assistance in doing so is much appreciated. A comparison with last year’s copy will show how quickly details change: not only do personnel alter in local societies but sadly opening hours have been reduced in several libraries. It should also be noted that local government reorganisation has resulted in changes to the names of some institutions.


There is one omission which requires explanation. Miss Elisabeth Stuart, Archivist and Records Manager, has requested that the Duchy Office is not included in the Guide. The archive was closed for a number of years for reorganisation and is, it is understood, now open on a limited basis. The importance of the Duchy archives makes availability an issue of concern. In 1982 HRH the Prince of Wales acknowledged the position of the records in his foreword to’ The Parliamentary Survey of the Duchy of Cornwall’ that:

‘It is remarkable that the archive of a great agricultural estate such as the Duchy of Cornwall has never been fully published. The material it contains provides not only a unique series of documents relating to Duchy history, but, by its nature, an important national archive stretching back to the thirteenth century’.


Access to all archives is a privilege, even with the publicly-funded county record offices where the majority of deposits are privately owned, and researchers should be grateful to the owners for making their records available. It is understood that access to the Duchy Office is to researchers who can first, demonstrate ‘merit’ and secondly, identify particular records held by the Office. It is uncertain how much longer reorganisation will take and in the meanwhile researchers must be grateful for access to what is a privately owned and run archive. END




In 1997 Elisabeth Stuart stated that access to the Duchy archive is restricted due to ‘re-organisation’. Ten years later, Elisabeth Stuart informed The National Archives ARCHON Directory that access was still restricted:


“The Duchy of Cornwall is a large landed estate archive which is undergoing extensive cataloguing and conservation. Since it is primarily an internal resource, it is regretted that it is not possible to answer speculative enquiries due to other pressures upon time.” (1)


Yet the Prince of Wales can still feign surprise when announcing that the “important national archive” of the Duchy of Cornwall has never been published. As with the ‘history’ of the Duchy of Cornwall portrayed on the Duke’s website, the Duke of Cornwall is again denying all knowledge of the “important national archive” that exists in the shape of the comprehensive, HMSO published, findings of the 1855-57 foreshore dispute – a copy of which sits in my office.


The Duke knows that the author of those findings was granted enfettered access to the Duchy of Cornwall archives, and that person, an eminent lawyer, concluded from the multitude of statutes, charters and legal cases present that:


“So far as Royal Seignory is concerned, it will scarcely be contended but that the Duke of Cornwall was placed precisely in the position of King. He had all the Crown lands within Cornwall, whether in possession or reversion; was entitled to all those feudal services and emoluments, as wardships, marriages, prima seizing, reliefs, escheats etc which belonged to the Crown as the ultimate and supreme Lord of the Soil. It cannot therefore be reasonably be doubted that this Royal Seignory, consisting of the King’s demesne lands, reversions, feudal services, rights and emoluments, with the prerogatives above enumerated, did, in fact, comprehend the whole territorial interest and dominion of the Crown in and over the entire County of Cornwall.”

Right Honourable Thomas Pemberton-Leigh, Chancellor of the Duchy of Cornwall [opening statement, May 1855].


hrhspeechIt is therefore unsurprising that the Duke, with the active support of the UK Government, pretends the 1855-57 foreshore dispute never took place; denies all knowledge of the results of his own chief legal officers investigations during that period; carefully deselects every aspect of Cornwall’s constitutional history from his official Duchy website and then refuses to facilitate unfettered access to Duchy archives. Duchy Archivist Elisabeth Stuart can then tour the country giving well-received lectures on how the origins of the Duchy of Cornwall are “somewhat a mystery”.


tamar20valley20talks20-20historical20aspects20of20the20duchy20of20cornwall20320april20200920-20small20for20web4The Duchy document containing that sentiment was circulated by Elisabeth Stuart at her Nov 2001 Cornwall Polytechnic Society ‘Paul Smales Lecture’. Appropriately enough, on April Fools Day 2009 the ducal emissary continues her mission at Widecombe-in-the-Moor’s  History Group meeting. Two days later she will indoctrinate the masses at the Tamar Valley Centre, Gunnislake. Indeed, the Duke is determined to get his message across and for this reason the lady is due to give a whole series of enlightening lectures on the ‘history’ of the Duchy culminating on Oct 20th 2009 at the Stoke Climsland Parish Local History Society meeting. 


Because the message is coming from a source of perceived impecability, the sheep will believe what they are told “4 legs good 2 legs baaa….”. Perhaps the well-paid Duchy Archivist’s time might be better spent actually re-organising and cataloguing the archive rather than propagandising for and on behalf the Duke in a systematic campaign of historical deconstruction.


bigdogwithsheepTwo features of the campaign stand out. No other ‘private estate’ feels the need to wage an unrelenting propaganda war the purpose of which is to remove from the historical record, and hence the common pool of knowledge, the evidence-based account of Cornish constitutional history articulated by none other than the chief legal officer of that very same institution.  What is it that drives this particular ‘private estate’ to undertake such a campaign? What marks this alleged ‘private estate’ out as different from all the rest?


Secondly, the Duchy is insistent that it is merely a composite of 54,000 hectares of land in 23 counties, of which only a tiny amount is in Cornwall. The inference is that the Duchy of Cornwall has no special relationship with Cornwall. This message is constantly drip fed to the public at Stuart’s many lectures, on the Duke’s website and in a number of publications either printed or endorsed by the Duke. For example, the 1996 Duchy Review [internal glossy PR document] opened a story on a Ducal visit to Cornwall with, “The Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall – the estate, not the county as, in fact, the estate only owns 2.5% of Cornwall…..”. The message was reinforced again later with a staged Question and Answer section where one of the answers was, rather conveniently, “The estate and the county are not one and the same as is often thought. In fact, the Duchy has never owned more than 3% of Cornwall”.

It is strange how the Duke often forgets things. Like, for example, how the Cornwall Submarine Mines Act 1858 acknowledged that all 500 miles of Cornish foreshore and riverbanks form part of the “soil and territorial possessions” of the Duchy.


propaganda4sheepleuj92Author Crispen Gill’s HRH approved ‘The Duchy of Cornwall’ [1987] asserts, “To confuse matters even more, the duke owns more land outside Cornwall than he owns in the County. His Duchy is not the county and the county is not the Duchy”. While Exeter University’s HRH approved ‘Historical Atlas of South West England’ [1999] never even mentioned the Duchy. Written by a ‘trusted’ team of 57 academics, this huge tome was gifted at taxpayers expense to all senior schools in Cornwall. Yet according to these state-paid air-brushers of history, the Duchy never existed (2).


It is, however, a position that is entirely at odds with historical fact. For example, credible historians cannot deny that the Attorney General for England Sir Edward Coke ruled in the ‘Prince’s Case’ that: all Cornwall is the Duchy of Cornwall”, while the Duchy of Cornwall’s own chief legal officer established that:


“It cannot, therefore, reasonably be doubted that this Royal Seignory, consisting of the King’s demesne lands, reversions, feudal services, rights and emoluments, with the prerogatives above numerated, did, in fact, comprehend the whole territorial interest and dominion of the Crown in and over the entire county.”  

Right Honourable Thomas Pemberton-Leigh, Chancellor of the Duchy of Cornwall. (3)


If the Duchy has no special relationship with Cornwall, why is the Duke’s London-based manipulator of history constantly delivering most of her lectures in Cornwall? As it is constantly inferred that Cornwall is only home to an inconsequential percentage of Duchy interests, shouldn’t Cornwall ‘benefit’ from a proportional amount of Duchy propaganda? Total Duchy real estate assets are said to be worth £550 million. In spite of recently selling much of his London property portfolio, the Duke still owns property in that area worth £75 million. He also owns as much land in Somerset as in Cornwall. So why is Elisabeth Stuart not excusing, justifying and extolling the Duke’s newly created version of history in those areas? Although the Duke denies any special relationship with Cornwall he has, by the very act of concentrating his propaganda campaign in Cornwall, confirmed that special relationship. 


Nevertheless, as things stand, the people of Cornwall are left with a situation whereupon hard evidence demonstrating Cornwall’s constitutional position as the fourth nation of Britain is kept under lock and key. It is fruitless to attempt to use the Freedom of Information Act to access particular documents from the Duchy archive for Elisabeth Stuart refuses to co-operate on grounds that “the Duchy of Cornwall is not itself subject to the Freedom of Information Act”.(4)


propaganda3A policy of secrecy, which is based on utterly bogus grounds that the documentation relates to the history of a ‘private estate’, prevents the true history of Cornwall from being made available to the public. Unless this official policy ends, the unambiguous results of Pemberton-Leigh’s extensive investigations are likely to remain censored from pupils in schools and colleges; banned from being referenced in government-authorised heritage documents; kept out of official tourist information outlets and banished from historical interpretation boards such as those that exist at the publicly funded Royal Cornwall Museum [Truro]. Moreover, people who restate Pemberton-Leigh’s findings are often branded ‘Cornish nationalists’ and equated with terrorists. Constant smearing of those who wish to see official sources promulgate only evidence-based versions of history is designed to render the whole subject taboo.


Contrast the situation on the ground with sentiments expressed for public consumption both by the Duke and the UK Government:


To understand ourselves, we need to know where we have come from and to know our roots. I am enormously proud and privileged to be Duke of Cornwall and I have always believed that Cornwall and the people who live here are very special. The uniqueness of Cornwall lies also in its history. HRH the Duke of Cornwall (5) 




“In History, pupils find evidence, weigh it up and reach their own conclusions. To do this they need to be able to research, sift through evidence and argue for their point of view.”      Government educational document (6)


Cornwall County Council was the administrative body chosen to oversee the recent UNESCO Cornish Mining World Heritage bid. A Partnership was formed comprising representatives from district councils, Camborne School of Mines, English Heritage and a number of other bodies including the ubiquitous Duchy of Cornwall - which is supposed to be just a ‘private estate’. No other ‘private estates’ were asked to join the Partnership.


train_crashAt the June 2001 opening meeting, amid a flurry of raised eyebrows, the Chairman accepted as additional members, Colin Murley representing Cornish Heritage and Rod Nute representing the Cornish Stannary Parliament. All those on the Duke’s sycophantic gravy-train were about to face a minor de-railment.

In March 2002 the Partnership formed a number of Technical Panels to deal with different aspects of the bid. These included: history, technical, social conditions, migration, landed gentry etc. In spite of the Stannaries being under the direct control of the Duchy of Cornwall, with the various Dukes being the principal financial benefactors to the tune of billions of pounds over many centuries, there was no reference to the Duchy of Cornwall anywhere.


three-monkeys1Within a few days it was announced that the ‘Bid Team’ would give a presentation not to the Queen of England, but to the landlord of a ‘private estate’. The Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, Mary Holborow, was asked to liase with Duchy of Cornwall Secretary and Keeper of the Records Bertie Ross. On 28th October 2002 CCC Chief Executive Peter Stethridge, County Archaeologist Nick Johnson and CCC senior policy officer Jeanette Ratcliffe rushed not to Buckingham Palace, but to Highgrove House. No landlords of any other ‘private estate’ received a similar hand-wringing, approval-seeking visit from such a distinguished body.


Duchy of Cornwall Land Steward Roger Haliday was present at the subsequent Partnership meeting of 5th December 2002 when Colin Murley explained how the constitutional history of Cornwall, as encapsulated by the established history of the Duchy of Cornwall,  is a key part of the history, culture and economics of Cornish mining. He therefore wondered why the Partnership was giving the history of the Duchy of Cornwall only superficial treatment. Nick Johnson said: “We don’t think it is relevant to the World Heritage Site Bid to include a discussion on the constitutional position of the Duke of Cornwall and the Duchy of Cornwall”. When pressed further, Johnson said, “We don’t want to put any discussion of the constitution in because there is then a danger that the Government will then pull the document”. (7)


nation_of_sheep_450_060701aIn May 2004 Mr Murley tried to get the Partnership to reference within the bid document the Cornwall Submarine Mines Act 1858, which arose out of a mining-related jurisdictional dispute between the UK Government and the Duchy Administration. That Parliamentary Act referenced Cornwall as the soil and territorial possession of the Duke in right of his Duchy of Cornwall, so that was also summarily rejected. He then tried to insert a reference to the [at least] 650 year old practice of charging Cornish miners double taxation on grounds of their non-English origins and/or separate nationhood. This racist or colonial practice was only terminated by the Duchy in 1838 after widespread protests by the Cornish community (8). Even so, the Duke received compensation from the government for loss of this income up until 1983 (9). Perhaps it is unsurprising therefore that this too was instantly vetoed. And so the process continued, with Mr Murley proposing to include verifiable items of historical merit, and the Partnership vetoing them.


This gives some idea of the struggle to get accurate accounts of Cornish history into the public domain via just one official document. In essence, the UNESCO Bid Document, like all other official sources of Cornish history, was being historically vetted to ensure it maintained the Duchy of Cornwall/‘private estate’ deception.


my20mbeIt was Cornwall Council Chief Archaeologist and Bid Partnership member Nick Johnson who led opposition to including ‘sensitive’ historical references within officially-sanctioned accounts of history as presented to UNESCO. In January 2008, Cornwall County Council announced that Nick Johnson had been awarded an MBE by a very grateful Duke of Cornwall.


The vetting and vetoing process outlined above also occurs when it comes to attempting to get accurate accounts of Cornish history into schools. Professor Paulo Freire, international human rights educationalist and former member of UNESCO’s International Jury, calls this form of state censorship/curriculum management the ‘banking’ system of education.


The capability of banking education to minimise or annul the student’s creative power and stimulate their credulity serves the interests of the oppressors, who care neither to have the world revealed or see it transformed. The oppressors wish to preserve a profiable situation so they react almost instinctively against any experiment in education which stimulates the critical faculties and is not content with a partial view of reality. Indeed, the interests of the oppressor lies with changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them, for the more the oppressed can be led to adapt to the situation, the more easily they can be dominated. 

   Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Penguin Education 1993 p.55.


John Angarrack 2009



1. ARCHON Code 1486 [available on the web]

2. See Chapter 4, ‘Our Future is History’ for a full account of the book and the real reason for its publication.

3. Opening statement in the foreshore dispute, May 1855. See also the previous quote from Pemberton-Leigh.

4. Letter to Stannary Parliament, 22nd February 2005.

5. Extracted from the forward of ‘Cornwall Forever’. Cornwall Heritage Trust. 2000.

6. Page 19. ‘History, the National Curriculum for England’. HMSO 1999

7. The (incomplete) minutes are available on the web. Also spoke to Mr Murley.  

8. Coinage Abolition Act 1838. See p.140 of ‘Our Future is History’ [2002].

9. Miscellaneous Financial Provisions Act 1983.


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