Duke of Cornwall

Duke of Cornwall
HRH The Prince of Wales, the current Duke of Cornwall

The Duchy of Cornwall was the first duchy created in the peerage of England.

The present Duke of Cornwall is The Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning British monarch (since 1952).



In some folkloric histories of the British Isles, the first leader of Cornwall is Corineus, a Trojan warrior and ally of Brutus of Troy, the original settler of the British Isles. From this earliest period through the Arthurian period, the Duke of Cornwall is semi-autonomous if not independent from the Hi-King or ruler of Britain, while also serving as his closest ally and, at times, as his protector. According to legend, Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall under King Uther Pendragon, rebelled against the latter's rule when the king became obsessed with Gorlois' wife Igraine. Uther killed Gorlois and took Igraine: the result of their union was the future King Arthur. According to history, during the Dark Ages there existed an independent Kingdom of Cornwall but by c.900 AD this had become an English dependency with its final native rulers using the title Earl of Cornwall.

After the Norman Conquest the new rulers of England appointed their own men as earl. After 1337 Cornwall became a royal duchy with the duchy of Cornwall always belonging to the eldest legitimate son of the Sovereign.Cornwall was the first duchy conferred within the Kingdom of England, although the Dukes of Normandy (King of England), Brittany (Earl of Richmond) and Aquitaine (Duke of Lancaster) held substantial estates and fiefs within England, being based in France. The Cornish duchy was first created for Edward, the Black Prince, the eldest son of Edward III in 1337. After Edward predeceased the King, the duchy was recreated for his son, the future Richard II. Under a charter of 1421, the duchy passes to the sovereign's eldest son and heir.

If the Duke of Cornwall dies, his eldest son does not inherit the duchy. However, if the Duke of Cornwall should die without children, his next brother obtains the duchy. 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; similarly, no female may ever be Duke of Cornwall, even if she is heiress presumptive or heiress apparent to the throne. 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). When the Sovereign has no legitimate son, the estates of the Duchy of Cornwall revert to the Crown until a legitimate son is born to the Sovereign or until the accession of a new Sovereign who has a son (e.g. between 1547 and 1603) (see more below).

James Francis Edward Stuart, son of James II, was born Duke of Cornwall in 1688. Although his father lost the throne, James Francis Edward was not deprived of his own honours. On a Jacobite analysis, on his father's death in 1701 the duchy of Cornwall was merged in the Crown. On a Hanoverian analysis, it was as a result of his claiming his father's lost thrones that James was attainted for treason on 2 March 1702, and his titles were thus forfeited under English law.[1]

In 1856–1857 there was a case of arbitration between the Crown and the Duchy of Cornwall in which the Officers of the Duchy successfully argued that the Duchy enjoyed many of the rights and prerogatives of a County palatine and that although the Duke was not granted Royal Jurisdiction, he was considered to be quasi-sovereign within his Duchy of Cornwall. The arbitration, as instructed by the Crown, was based on legal argument and documentation, and led to the Cornwall Submarine Mines Act of 1858.

In 1969–1971 the Royal Commission on the Constitution recommended that official sources properly refer to Cornwall as a Duchy and not merely a county. This is in recognition of its special constitutional position. The report also states: "Cornwall has, however, been governed as part of England for a thousand years and, despite its individual character and strong sense of regional identity, there is no evidence that its people generally have a wish to see it separated for the purposes of government from the rest of England."

The current duke of Cornwall

The current duke of Cornwall is Charles, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning monarch. Charles was officially proclaimed Duke of Cornwall at Launceston Castle in 1973. As part of his feudal dues there was a pair of white gloves, gilt spurs and greyhounds, a pound of pepper and cumin, a bow, one hundred silver shillings, wood for his fires, and a salmon spear.

Since their marriage, celebrated at the Guildhall in Windsor on 9 April 2005, Charles's second wife has used the style Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall rather than Princess of Wales.

Rights of the duke

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, more than half of which lies in Devon. The Duke also has some rights over the territory of Cornwall, the county, and for this and other reasons 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 (Bona Vacantia) in the whole of Cornwall. A sturgeon caught in Cornwall is ceremonially offered to the Duke.[citation needed] The Duke has right of wreck on all ships wrecked on Cornish shores.[citation needed] In 2003, the Duchy earned £9,943,000, a sum that was exempt from income tax, though the Prince of Wales chose to pay the tax voluntarily.[citation needed]


Standard of the Duke of Cornwall

The Arms of the Duke of Cornwall are "sable fifteen bezants Or", that is, a black field bearing fifteen gold discs, representing 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 Council to represent Cornwall. These arms were adopted late in the 15th century and are often surmounted by a Prince of Wales coronet, four crosses patée and four fleurs-de-lis with an arch. Supporters are not always used, though the Cornish Red-billed Chough and ostrich feathers are sometimes found. Rather than the motto used by the Prince of Wales (i.e., Ich Dien, German for "I serve"), the Duke of Cornwall's Coat of Arms uses the motto "Houmout" (meaning "honour" or "high-spirited"), derived from the Black Prince. The banner of the Duchy of Cornwall is simplified, showing the fifteen gold bezants on a black field.

Dukes of Cornwall, 1337 creation

All Dukes of Cornwall who have been the eldest living son of the sovereign are generally considered to have held the same creation of the duchy. The following is a table of these Dukes of Cornwall, with the processes by which they became duke and by which they ceased to hold the title:

Duke of Cornwall Parent From To Other title held while Duke
Edward of Woodstock, "The Black Prince" Edward III 1337 (Parliament) 1376 (death) Prince of Wales (1343), Prince of Aquitaine (1362–1372), Earl of Chester (1333)
Henry of Monmouth Henry IV 1399 (Parliament) 1413 (acceded as Henry V) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1399), Duke of Aquitaine (1390), Duke of Lancaster (1399)
Henry Henry V 1421 (birth) 1422 (acceded as Henry VI) Duke of Aquitaine (1390)
Edward of Westminster Henry VI 1453 (birth) 1471 (death) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1454)
Edward Plantagenet, Prince of Wales Edward IV 1470 (charter) 1483 (acceded as Edward V) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1471), Earl of March (1479), Earl of Pembroke (1479)
Edward of Middleham, 1st Earl of Salisbury Richard III 1483 (father's accession) 1484 (death) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1483), Earl of Salisbury (1478)
Arthur Tudor Henry VII 1486 (birth) 1502 (death) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1489)
Henry Tudor, 1st Duke of York Henry VII 1502 (death of brother Arthur) 1509 (acceded as Henry VIII) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1504), Duke of York (1494–1504)
Henry Henry VIII 1511 (birth) 1511 (death)
Henry Henry VIII 1514 (birth) 1514 (death)
Edward Tudor Henry VIII 1537 (birth) 1547 (acceded as Edward VI) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1537)
Henry Frederick James I 1603 (father's accession) 1612 (death) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1610), Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Baron Renfrew (1469), Lord of the Isles (1540), Prince and Great Steward of Scotland (1469) (The italicised henceforth "Duke of Rothesy, etc (1469 & 1540)")
Prince Charles, 1st Duke of York, 1st Duke of Albany James I 1612 (death of brother Henry) 1625 (acceded as Charles I) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1616), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540), Duke of Albany (1600), Duke of York (1605), Marquess of Ormond, Earl of Ross, Lord Ardmannoch (1600)
Prince Charles James Charles I 1629 (birth) 1629 (death) Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540)
Prince Charles Charles I 1630 (birth) 1649 (acceded as Charles II) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1638), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540)
Prince James Francis Edward James II 1688 (birth) 1702 (attainted) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1688–1702), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469–1702 & 1540–1702)
The Prince George, 1st Duke of Cambridge George I 1714 (father's accession) 1727 (acceded as George II) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1714), Hereditary Prince of Hanover, Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540), Duke of Cambridge, Marquess of Cambridge, Earl of Milford Haven, Viscount Northallerton, Baron Tewkesbury (1706)
The Prince Frederick, 1st Duke of Edinburgh George II 1727 (father's accession) 1751 (death) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1729), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540), Duke of Edinburgh, Marquess of Ely, Earl of Eltham, Viscount Launceston, Baron Snowdon (1726)
The Prince George George III 1762 (birth) 1820 (acceded as George IV) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1762), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540)
The Prince Albert Edward Victoria 1841 (birth) 1901 (acceded as Edward VII) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1841), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540), Earl of Dublin (1850)
The Prince George, 1st Duke of York Edward VII 1901 (father's accession) 1910 (acceded as George V) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1901), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540), Duke of York, Earl of Inverness, Baron Killarney (1892)
The Prince Edward George V 1910 (father's accession) 1936 (acceded as Edward VIII) Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1910), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540)
The Prince Charles Elizabeth II 1952 (mother's accession) Current Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1958), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540)

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]

Dukes of Cornwall, 1376 creation

When his heir-apparent Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall predeceased him, Edward III granted Woodstock's son Richard a new creation of the title Duke of Cornwall. When Richard acceded the throne as Richard II in 1377, this creation merged to the crown.

also Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1376)

See also


  1. ^ Complete Peerage: 'Duke of Cornwall'

External links

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