Queen Elizabeth II is the monarch of sixteen Commonwealth Realms 1, three Crown Dependencies 2, fourteen British Overseas Territories 3 and various Australian and New Zealand Overseas Territories 4. None of those Realms, Dependencies or Territories has a relationship with the Crown which is as ambiguous as that of Cornwall and in none of them does the same situation with regard to the ownership of land apply. The land of Cornwall is owned by the Duke of Cornwall. There is no other province, county, shire, call it what you will, in which the ultimate owner of the land is other than the monarch or the State. This is an issue which I shall explore in more detail shortly. Already it is clear Cornwall is different.
As I’ve been tapping this blog post Republic have launched their new campaign – Take back the Duchy. They write:
For certain Cornish autonomists and cultural admirers, the Duchy of Cornwall’s peculiar constitutional status gives Cornwall a degree of autonomy which it would otherwise lose. The argument goes that to attack the distinctiveness of the Duchy of Cornwall throws out the baby with the bathwater.
There’s actually some merit in this. Cornwall is constitutionally distinct from the rest of the UK. Cornwall, as a region, has a language, culture, religious tradition, climate and economy alien to the rest of the UK. Whatever its faults, the Duchy gives recognition to this.
But there are other ways in which Cornwall could express its distinctive culture in ways which are modern, democratic, and far less intrusive- the recognition in 2014 of Cornwall as having protected minority status is one.
Another concern is that if the Duchy were absorbed into the Crown Estate, it is unlikely that money generated would be re-invested in Cornwall. Cornwall, being generally less wealthy than other parts of the UK, is in greater need of this money. But actually very little of the Duchy’s revenue goes to Cornwall now. There is much to be said for earmarking revenues generated in Cornwall for expenditure in Cornwall- but this could be achieved by a separate department within the Crown Estate or by passing the funds to an independent trust. The Duchy as it currently exists is very poorly qualified to handle this kind of enterprise.
It should be stressed that Republic is proposing an end to the organisation of the Duchy, the operation that currently pays a multi-million pound profit to Prince Charles. We do not dispute Cornwall’s unique status but would argue that along with the rest of the UK Cornwall deserves a more democratic and accountable settlement.
You can read what they have to say about Cornish distinctiveness and the Duchy here: Doesn’t this Undermine Cornwall’s Autonomy?