Crown Estate: Wikis


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In the United Kingdom, the Crown Estate is a property portfolio owned by the Crown. Historically the possession of monarchs, it is no longer the private property of the reigning monarch and cannot be sold by him/her, nor do the revenues from it belong to the monarch personally. It is managed by an independent organisation and headed by the Crown Estate Commissioners. The surplus revenue from the Estate is paid each year to HM Treasury. The Crown Estate is formally accountable to Parliament, to which it makes an annual report.[1]

The Crown Estate is one of the largest property owners in the United Kingdom with a portfolio worth £6 billion, with urban properties valued at £4.2 billion, and rural holdings valued at £919.5 million; and an annual profit of £226.5 million, as at 8 July 2009.[2] The majority of the estate by value is urban, including a large number of properties in central London, but the estate also owns 272,000 acres (110,000 ha) of agricultural land and forest, more than 55% of the UK's foreshore, and retains various other traditional holdings and rights, for example Ascot racecourse and Windsor Great Park.




Crown land in England

The history of the Crown lands in England begins with the Norman conquest.[1] The period between the reigns of William I and Queen Anne was one of continuous alienation of lands.[3] When William I died, the land he had acquired by right of conquest was still largely intact.[4] His successors, however, granted large estates to the nobles and barons who supplied them with men and arms.[5] The Crown lands were augmented as well as depleted over the centuries: Edward I extended his possessions into Wales, and James VI & I had his own Crown lands in Scotland which were ultimately combined with the Crown lands of England and Wales.[6] However, the disposals outweighed the acquisitions: at the time of the Restoration in 1660, the total revenue arising from Crown lands was estimated to be £263,598.[7] By the end of the reign of William III (1689–1702), however, it was reduced to some £6,000.[8]

Before the reign of William III all the revenues of the kingdom were bestowed on the monarch for the general expenses of government. These revenues were of two kinds:[9]

  • the hereditary revenues, derived principally from the Crown lands, feudal rights (commuted for the hereditary excise duties in 1660), profits of the post office, with licences, &c.
  • the temporary revenues derived from taxes granted to the king for a term of years or for life.

After the Glorious Revolution, Parliament retained under its own control the greater part of the temporary revenues, and relieved the sovereign of the cost of the naval and military services and the burden of the National Debt. During the reigns of William III, Anne, George I and George II the sovereign remained responsible for the maintenance of the civil government and for the support of the royal household and dignity, being allowed for these purposes the hereditary revenues and certain taxes.[9]

On George III's accession he surrendered the income from the Crown lands to Parliament in return for a fixed civil list payment and the income retained from the Duchy of Lancaster.[10] The king surrendered to parliamentary control the hereditary excise duties, post office revenues, and "the small branches" of hereditary revenue including rents of the Crown lands in England, (which amounted to about £11,000) and was granted a civil list annuity of £800,000 for the support of his household and the expenses of civil government, subject to the payment of certain annuities to members of the royal family.[10] Although the king had retained large hereditary revenues, his income proved insufficient for his charged expenses because he used the privilege to reward supporters with bribes and gifts.[11] Debts amounting to over £3 million over the course of George's reign were paid by parliament, and the civil list annuity was then increased from time to time.[12]

Every succeeding sovereign has renewed the arrangement made between George III and parliament and the practice has, since the nineteenth century, been recognised as "an integral part of the Constitution [which] could not be abandoned".[9][13]

Crown land in Ireland

In 1793 George III surrendered the hereditary revenues of Ireland, and was granted a Civil List annuity for certain expenses of Irish civil government.[10]

As in Scotland, the Crown lands in Ireland comprised a miscellany of feudal dues, land acquired for forts, and forfeitures especially after 1688. In the early 1830s the Crown Estate resumed possession of land in Ballykilcline following the insanity of the head lessee. The occupational sub-lessees were seven years in arrear with their rent and the result was the Ballykilcline "removals" – free emigration to the new world in 1846. There is evidence of Crown Estate public work schemes to employ the more distressed in improving drainage etc.[14] In 1854 a select committee of the House of Lords concluded that the small estates in Ireland should be sold.[15] 7,000 acres (28 km²) were subsequently sold for circa. £25,000 at auction and £10,000 by private treaty: a major disinvestment, with reinvestment in Great Britain.[8]

From 1 April 1923, as regards the Irish Free State, Irish land revenues have been collected and administered by the Irish Government. At the time of handover to the Irish Free State, quit rents totalled £23,418 and rent from property £1,191.[8] The estates handed over mostly comprised foreshore.[16]

Crown land in Scotland

The hereditary land revenues of the Crown in Scotland, formerly under the management of the Barons of the Exchequer, were transferred to the Commissioners of Woods, Forests, Land Revenues, Works and Buildings and their successors under the Crown Lands (Scotland) Acts of 1832, 1833 and 1835.[17] These holdings mainly comprised former ecclesiastical land (following the abolition of the episcopacy in 1689) in Caithness and Orkney, and ancient royal possession in Stirling and Edinburgh, and feudal dues.[16] There was virtually no urban property. Most of the present Scottish estate excepting foreshore and salmon fishing is due to inward investment, including Glenlivet Estate, the largest area of land managed by The Crown Estate in Scotland, purchased in 1937,[18] Applegirth, Fochabers and Whitehill estates, purchased in 1963, 1937 and 1969 respectively.[19]


Previous officials responsible for managing what is now the Crown Estate were:[20]

Chairmen and chief executives of The Crown Estate

Chairmen (First Commissioner)

Chief executives (Second Commissioner)

  • 1955*-60 – Sir Ronald Montague Joseph Harris (b. 1913, d. 1995)
  • 1960-68 – Sir Jack Alexander Sutherland-Harris (b. 1908, d. 1986)
  • 1968-78 – Sir William Alan Wood (b. 1916)
  • 1978-83 – Sir John Michael Moore (b. 1921)
  • 1983-89 – Dr Keith Dexter (b. 1928, d. 1989)
  • 1989-2001– Sir Christopher Kingston Howes (b. 1942)
  • 2001– Roger Martin Francis Bright (b. 1951)

The Crown Estate now is a statutory corporation run on commercial lines by the Crown Estate Commissioners under the provisions of the Crown Estate Act 1961. It has a property portfolio of buildings, shoreline, seabed, forestry, agricultural and common land worth more than £6 billion, generating revenue of more than £225 million for HM Treasury every year.[2] The chairman (formally titled "first commissioner") is part-time. The chief executive (the "second commissioner") is the only full-time executive member of the Crown Estate's board.[21]


  1. ^ a b "FAQs". The Crown Estate. Retrieved 20 October 2008.  
  2. ^ a b "The Crown Estate report and accounts, 2008/09", London, The Stationery Office, ISBN 978-0-10-296118-8
  3. ^ Commissioners of Enquiry, s. 38
  4. ^ Pugh, p 3
  5. ^ Pugh. pp. 3-4
  6. ^ Pugh, p. 5
  7. ^ Commissioners of Enquiry, s. 26
  8. ^ a b c H M Treasury "Blue Note", Class X, 2, 1912
  9. ^ a b c Best, p. 1
  10. ^ a b c Best, p. 2
  11. ^ The Guardian, "The royal family and the public purse", March 6, 2000
  12. ^ A Student's Manual of English Constitutional History by Dudley Julius Medley, pg. 501, 1902
  13. ^ Ilbert, C. P., The Times, 14 August 1871, p. 4
  14. ^ Commissioners' Report for 1853, p. 601, and 1855, pp. 42-43
  15. ^ Commissioners' Report for 1855, p.47
  16. ^ a b Pugh, p. 17
  17. ^ Pugh, p. 18
  18. ^ Paterson, Wilma "Out of the shadows", The Herald, 13 November 1999, p. 12
  19. ^
  20. ^ Crown Estate Publication scheme, accessed 8 July 2009
  21. ^ The Crown Estate's [1] annual report, 2008, accessed 8 May 2009


  • Annual Reports of Commissioners of Woods & Forests 1811, 1853 and 1855
  • Best, G. Percival, (writing as "G. Percival") "The Civil List and the Hereditary Revenues of the Crown", The Fortnightly Review, London, March 1901
  • Commissioners of Enquiry into the Woods, Forests and Land Revenues of the Crown. Twelfth Report, London, 1792
  • Crown Estate, The. Annual report and accounts 2009, accessed July 2009
  • Pugh, R B. The Crown Estate – an Historical Essay, London, The Crown Estate, 1960

See also

External links


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