15.09.2019

What is the Duchy of Lancaster and how is the Queen tied up in the Paradise Papers?

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The Queen is also a Duke, and that Duke is in hot water.

As confusing as it sounds, that’s one of the Paradise Papers’ revelations. Queen Elizabeth’s estate, known as the Duchy of Lancaster, has reportedly invested £10 million ($13.1 million) in offshore funds in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. The Duchy says the investments are legal, didn’t give her any tax advantages, and the Cayman Island funds only account for 0.3% of its total value.

There is no suggestion the Queen personally knew about the investments.

But what is the Duchy of Lancaster?

The Duchy is an 18,000 hectare private estate, valued at £519 million. It was founded in the 13th century and has for hundreds of years given the British monarch an income outside of what they get from the Sovereign Grant. Last year the Queen netted £19.2 million from the estate.

It was held by the family of the Duke of Lancaster from 1265, and when Henry IV became king in 1399, he decreed that the estate should be held separately from other Crown possessions, instead being passed down for whoever is the monarch.

The Queen is known as the Duke of Lancaster rather than Duchess because “Queen Victoria considered that the title ‘Duke’ was the proper title for the holder of a Dukedom whether man or woman, that of Duchess being a courtesy title for the consort of a Duke,” the Duchy’s website writes.

The Queen doesn’t personally manage the investment portfolio; instead it is run by the Duchy Council, which reports to the Chancellor of the Duchy. The Chancellor is always a government minister, appointed by the Queen on the advice of the prime minister. Former transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin currently has the role.

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