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 William. 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.
Isn’t it Theft?
The proposed amalgamation would deprive the Duke of possession of the lands and revenue of the Duchy. Some of our detractors have said this would be tantamount to an illegal confiscation of private land.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled on a very similar issue in 2000: Former King of Greece v Greece.
The short answer is no, it isn't theft - in fact it's a perfectly legitimate reclaiming of national property. A state can confiscate the public property of a monarch on the basis that it is really the property of the state in any event, but if it extends this confiscation to private property, then it must pay compensation (though not necessarily the total value of the property seized).
The Duchy is not (despite its claims) a private estate. It was not purchased privately for the Duke or by him. It does not permanently belong to him or to his heirs. It would operate as a part of the Crown Estate if the monarch did not have a son. It is a part of the Crown Estate which is from time to time devolved to an individual meeting the right criteria.
It's actually fairly simple
What we're basically saying is that we treat the Duchy as if there were no eldest son of the monarch. Then the Duchy reverts to the Crown Estate. We are saying the Duchy should not have any unique powers or privileges and that there should be a better way of ensuring Cornish land and revenues are used for the benefit of all Cornwall.
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