Public Accounts CommitteeWritten evidence from the Principal Private Secretary to TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall

Question 159

In the past 10 years The Duke of Cornwall’s Benevolent Fund has made one payment of £5,000 in 2012 to Gordonstoun School’s Scholarship Fund. This fund’s aim is to provide “all round” scholarships for children who would otherwise be unable to afford a Gordonstoun education. This particular payment was made in partial support of a child from Cornwall. The Benevolent Fund has a list which details the types of charities it supports and this includes charities with an educational remit.

Question 199

An additional note was promised if the information was incorrect. I can confirm that the information provided was correct.

Question 244

When considering the question whether, in the absence of a surviving son and heir to the reigning Monarch, the Sovereign would become Duke of Cornwall, it is important to keep separately in mind (i) the devolution of the title, and (ii) the inheritance of the possessions. The title “Duke of Cornwall” was created first in time, and the possessions were then conferred on the Duke shortly afterwards by the Charter of 1337. The provisions of the Charter are clear, in as much as when there is no surviving son and heir, the possessor of the Duchy estate is the Sovereign. In these circumstances all the rights of the son and heir in respect of the estate fall to the Sovereign—thus, for example, the Sovereign receives the revenue from the estate but is not entitled to the capital.

When the Sovereign is the possessor of the estate, the title of Duke falls into disuse. It has not been the custom of Sovereigns to describe themselves as Duke of Cornwall and therefore in some cases this is referred to as a vacancy although, as noted above, there is a clear possessor of the estate. It should be noted that the use of titles is a matter for the Royal prerogative. Titles associated with the Sovereign, such as Duke of Lancaster and Duke of Normandy, are customary rather than official.

This question arose in the context of a discussion as to whether “the Duchy” is a separate legal person. It may assist the Committee if we offer some short observations on that question. Whether or not the Sovereign is styled as Duke does not affect the answer to the question whether “the Duchy” is a separate legal person. If “the Duchy” was a separate legal person, then the possessions would be permanently vested in that separate legal person, and there would have been no need to make provision for the possessions to vest in the Sovereign. The fact that such express provision has been made suggests that “the Duchy” is not a separate legal person, and as a result the possessions must always vest in some natural person (ie the eldest son and heir or the Sovereign).

I do hope the above is useful, but please do not hesitate to contact me if I can help any further.

William Nye
The Principal Private Secretary

2 August 2013

Prepared 4th November 2013