What is the $1.5-billion estate Prince William has recently inherited?

By Melissa Lopez-Martinez

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    TORONTO (CTV Network) — As King Charles III ascends to the throne following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, his son Prince William will take on Charles’ previous title as the Duke of Cornwall, while retaining his title as Duke of Cambridge.

Along with William’s new title comes the Duchy of Cornwall, a nearly 700-year-old, $1.5-billion estate belonging to the Royal Family.

The Duchy of Cornwall’s origins are entrenched in providing funds to the heir to the throne as a means of independence. The estate continues to report high streams of revenue, much of which have come under controversy under the helm of then-Prince Charles. With Prince William now taking the role as Duke, the title comes with more than just property.

WHAT IS THE DUCHY OF CORNWALL?

The private estate of the Duchy of Cornwall dates back 1337 when King Edward III established it as a way to provide independence to his heir, Prince Edward. According to the Duchy of Cornwall’s website, the charter ruled since then the estate would be given to the eldest surviving son of the Monarch and subsequent heir to the throne.

Contrary to its name, the estate’s properties span 20 counties across England and Wales, with only 13 per cent of the land located in Cornwall. Combined, the properties include 52,450 hectares of land which includes fully equipped farms, commercial and residential property.

“It’s not a small deal and it generates a lot of money,” explains Stephen Brooke, professor of British political history at Toronto’s York University. In a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Thursday, Brooke says holdings like the Duchy of Cornwall are what make up the foundation of wealth to the throne.

“For many, many years, the Queen was the richest woman in the world because of these holdings and I’m not sure people really talk about that; it’s not just the Crown as a symbol, the Crown has a lot of money too,” he said.

Who will inherit Queen Elizabeth II’s fortune?

‘A MODERN CORPORATION’

While Charles pays voluntary income tax on the estate, the Duchy of Cornwall is not subjected to corporation tax since it’s regarded as Crown property. According to the estates annual financial reports from 2022, Charles earned 21 million pounds (C$31.8 million) in income at the end of the financial year.

In 1990, Charles started the organic food company Duchy Originals, now known as Waitrose Duchy Organic, which since 2010 has been partnered with British supermarket corporation Waitrose. According to the Prince of Wales website, the company’s profits have gone to charitable causes and operates separately from the Duchy of Cornwall.

Brooke says the investments made by the Royal Family show efforts to grow its financial wealth.”

“The modernization of the monarchy seems to have also included much more modern approaches to this private wealth. It’s not like they’re just quaint landholders, it’s a modern corporation,” he said. WHAT COULD THIS MEAN FOR PRINCE WILLIAM

With the Queen gone, all eyes around the world are on the future of the Monarchy, says Brooke, as this new era opens the discussion for how the modern monarchy will continue to evolve.

“I think a challenge for Prince William, if he takes it up, is to think about, ‘is this (the Duchy of Cornwall) something a modern monarch should have’?” he said.

Brooke says Prince William, along with other members of the Royal Family, may face heightened scrutiny to their inheritances and new titles because of their celebrity status; unlike the Queen, who strayed away from any association with being a celebrity.

“I think Queen Elizabeth held the Monarchy in such esteem in Britain, largely because of her personality. She was someone who did not court the spotlight, always appeared very gracious in a kind of extraordinary way but still very ordinary,” he said. “I’m not sure King Charles and the others have the same gift.”

Ultimately, ties to the monarch for those within the Commonwealth remain strong enough that even those who may be aware of the Royal Family’s streams of wealth might not care enough to dispute it.

“My guess would be that he (Prince William) won’t interrogate this too much not because of greed, but simply because he won’t have to; there has been some criticism, but it has not become a mainstream issue, so I think the royal family will probably be able to continue this tradition.”

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Sonja Puzic

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