The Duchy of Cornwall is one of the two Royal duchies in the United Kingdom (the other being the Duchy of Lancaster). It is an estate held in trust to provide income for the reigning monarch's eldest surviving son (generally that son is also the Heir Apparent), in his capacity as Duke of Cornwall. The current Duke of Cornwall is The Prince of Wales.
Despite its name, it is effectively a property company (though it pays no corporation tax), and has holdings throughout the country, with possessions totalling 571 km². Nearly half of the holdings are in Devon, with other large holdings in Cornwall, Herefordshire, and Somerset. Annual net surplus profit in 2003 was £9,943,000.
As a Crown body, the Duchy is tax-exempt, but since 1993 The Prince has voluntarily paid income tax - at 40% - on his income from it. The Prince had always paid a voluntary contribution to the Treasury of 50% of his Duchy income from the time he became eligible for its full income at the age of 21 in 1969, and 25% after his marriage in 1981. Tax is calculated after deducting business expenditure, the biggest source of which is The Prince's staff of around 80 - from private secretaries to valets - working in his office at St James's Palace, and at Highgrove. Detailed records are kept to determine the split between public and private expenditure.
For Cornish nationalists and regionalists (see the constitutional status of Cornwall), the Duchy has quite a different significance. Cornwall itself in this framework is described as a Duchy (as opposed to an ordinary county), and the Duchy estates are distinguished from the Duchy itself. The Duke of Cornwall may even be described as Cornwall's head of state. For example, the Duke traditionally had a ceremonial role in summoning the Cornish Stannary Parliament. It should be noted, however, that the administrative machinery of Cornwall almost invariably refers to itself as a county (including, for example, Cornwall County Council itself) in the English language.
The Duchy was established in 1337 by Edward III of England for his son, Edward, Prince of Wales.
Both the Duchy of Cornwall and its counterpart, the Duchy of Lancashire, have special statutory rights not available to other estates held by peers: for example, the rules on Bona Vacantia operate in favour of the holder of the Duchy (as opposed to the Crown generally), and there are separate Attorneys General for the estates. Generally, though, the exemptions all tend to follow the same line: any rights pertaining to the Crown generally in most areas of the country instead pertain to the Duke of the Duchy.