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Duke of Cornwall

The Dukedom of Cornwall was the first dukedom created in the peerage of England. The dukedom remains one of the last in the United Kingdom still associated with an actual duchy (the other is the Duchy of Lancaster). Its income goes to the Duke (or to the monarch when the dukedom is vacant). The Duchy still has some connections to the territory of Cornwall and it is not uncommon for Cornish people to refer to Cornwall as a Duchy.



According to legend, Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall to King Uther Pendragon, rebelled against the latter's rule when he became obsessed with Gorlois' wife, Igraine. Uther killed Gorlois and married Igraine; the result of the union was the future King Arthur.

The Dukedom of Cornwall always belongs to the eldest son of the Sovereign. Cornwall was the first dukedom ever conferred in England, being created for Edward, the Black Prince, the eldest son of Edward III in 1336. After Edward predeceased the King, the dukedom was recreated for his son, the future Richard II. Under a charter of 1421, the dukedom passes to the Sovereign's eldest son and heir.

If the eldest son of the Sovereign dies, his or her eldest son does not inherit the Dukedom. However, if the eldest son should die without children, then his next brother obtains the Dukedom. Underlying these rules is the principle that only a son of the Sovereign—never a grandson, even if he is the Heir Apparent—may be Duke of Cornwall. It is possible for an individual to be Prince of Wales and Heir Apparent without being Duke of Cornwall. For example, King George II's heir-apparent, the future George III, was Prince of Wales, but not Duke of Cornwall (because he was the King's grandson, not the King's son).

In 1856 Sir George Harrison successfully argued that the Duchy enjoyed the rights and prerogatives of a County palatine, that it was extrateritorial to England and that the Duke has rights over the whole territory of Cornwall befitting a King.

In 1969-71 the Kilbrandon Report into the British constitution recommended that, when referring to Cornwall the 'county' - official sources should cite the Duchy not the County. This was suggested in recognition of its constitutional position.

Following her marriage to The Prince of Wales, Camilla Parker Bowles uses the style 'Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall' rather than than 'Princess of Wales'.

Duchy of Cornwall

See main article Duchy of Cornwall.

Traditionally, the Duke of Cornwall is entitled to receive certain feudal dues. The current Duke received his dues at Launceston Castle in 1973, which included a pair of white gloves, a pair of greyhounds, a pound of pepper and cumin, a pair of gilt spurs, one hundred silver shillings, a bow, a spear and firewood. The Duke of Cornwall is also entitled to the income of the Duchy's lands to cover the cost of his public functions. Should there be no Duke of Cornwall at any time, the income of the Duchy goes to the Crown. The Duchy includes over 570 square kilometres of land, half of which lies in Devon.

The Duke also has some rights over the territory of Cornwall, the county, and for this and other reason there is debate as to the constitutional status of Cornwall. The High Sheriff of Cornwall is appointed by the Duke, not the monarch, in contrast to the other counties of England and Wales. The Duke has the right to the estates of all those who die without named heirs (intestate) in the whole of Cornwall, outside of Cornwall such estates go to the Crown. This is known as Bona Vacantia and applies to treasure trove in Cornwall as well. A sturgeon caught elsewhere in Britain is ceremonially offered to the monarch, while in Cornwall it is offered to the Duke. The Duke has right of wreck on all ships wrecked on Cornish shores, but in most of England this is the right of the Crown.

In 2003, the Duchy earned 9,943,000, a sum that was exempt from income tax (but the Prince of Wales elected to pay the tax voluntarily).


The Arms of the Duke of Cornwall are sable fifteen bezants Or, that is, a black field bearing fifteen gold coins. A small shield bearing these arms appears on the Prince of Wales' heraldic achievement, below the main shield. This symbol is also used by Cornwall County Council to represent Cornwall.

List of the Dukes of Cornwall

Holders of the Dukedom of Cornwall, with the processes by which they became dukes of Cornwall and by which they ceased to hold the title:

Duke of Cornwall Parent From To
Edward, the Black Prince Edward III 1337 (Parliament) 1376 (death)
Richard of Bordeaux Edward, the Black Prince 1376 (charter) 1377 (acceded as Richard II)
Henry of Monmouth Henry IV 1399 (Parliament) 1413 (acceded as Henry V)
Henry Henry V 1421 (birth) 1422 (acceded as Henry VI)
Edward of Westminster Henry VI 1453 (birth) 1471 (death)
Edward Plantagenet Edward IV 1470 (charter) 1483 (acceded as Edward V)
Edward, Earl of Salisbury Richard III 1483 (father's accession) 1484 (death)
Arthur Tudor Henry VII 1486 (birth) 1502 (death)
Henry Tudor, Duke of York Henry VII 1502 (death of brother Arthur) 1509 (acceded as Henry VIII)
Henry Henry VIII 1511 (birth) 1511 (death)
Henry Henry VIII 1514 (birth) 1514 (death)
Henry Henry VIII 1534 (birth) 1534 (death)
Henry Henry VIII 1536 (birth) 1536 (death)
Edward Tudor Henry VIII 1537 (birth) 1547 (acceded as Edward VI)
Henry, Duke of Rothesay James I 1603 (father's accession) 1612 (death)
Charles Stuart, Duke of York James I 1612 (death of brother Henry) 1625 (acceded as Charles I)
Charles James Stuart Charles I 1629 (birth) 1629 (death)
Charles Stuart Charles I 1630 (birth) 1649 (acceded as Charles II)
James Francis Edward Stuart James II 1688 (birth) 1689 (father's deposition)
George Augustus George I 1714 (father's accession) 1727 (acceded as George II)
Frederick Lewis George II 1727 (father's accession) 1751 (death)
George Augustus Frederick George III 1762 (birth) 1820 (acceded as George IV)
Albert Edward Victoria 1841 (birth) 1901 (acceded as Edward VII)
George Edward VII 1901 (father's accession) 1910 (acceded as George V)
Edward George V 1910 (father's accession) 1936 (acceded as Edward VIII)
Charles Elizabeth II 1952 (mother's accession)  

Additional details appear in Cokayne, George Edward, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, A. Sutton, Gloucester, 1982. [orig. 13 volumes, published by The St. Catherine Press Ltd, London, England from 1910-1959; reprinted in microprint: 13 vol. in 6, Gloucester: A. Sutton, 1982 ]

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Last updated: 07-29-2005 20:00:28
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