Yes, it is very interesting to see British media outlets running some very critical stories about the monarchy this year. What’s even more interesting is that when a legitimate news outlet like the Guardian runs a story exposing a royal figure, it’s getting picked up by the tabloids. Historically, that hasn’t always happened. Earlier this week, we discussed the Guardian story about Queen Elizabeth using an arcane procedure to hide the extent of her personal wealth by lobbying Parliament (secretly). As it turns out, Prince Charles has also used the same arcane procedures to protect the extensive property holdings of the Duchy of Cornwall. The Duchy is the largest landholder in the UK, and the income derived from the rental properties and farms makes upwards of $20-30 million a year for the Duchy. Prince Charles – who is the guardian of the Duchy – used his position to stop his renters from ever buying those properties.
The royal family has used a secretive procedure to vet three parliamentary acts that have prevented residents on Prince Charles’ estate from buying their own homes for decades, the Guardian can reveal. His £1bn Duchy of Cornwall estate was later given special exemptions in the acts that denied residents the legal right to buy their own homes outright.
Under the opaque procedure, the Queen and Prince of Wales were allowed to vet the contents of the bills by government ministers and approve them before they were passed by parliament. The exemptions have left residents living in homes that have diminishing or no financial value. The residents say they cannot borrow against their homes to pay, for example, for social care fees for themselves and loved ones.
Jane Giddins, who lives in one of the prince’s houses in a Somerset village, said a “feudal and anachronistic” system had unfairly favoured Charles, to her family’s detriment. “When we die, our kids will be left with a property that is very difficult to sell,” she said.
The exemptions enable the prince to preserve the financial value of his estate and brings in income as the tenants have to pay rent to him each year. The residents say they have been unable to find out why and how the heir to the throne was able to secure preferential treatment from the government. The prince declined to comment when asked whether he or his family had lobbied the government for the exemptions in the three acts.
However, the Guardian has established that Prince Charles and his mother were allowed to approve the contents of the three acts under an arcane parliamentary process known as Queen’s consent. Through this mechanism, the monarch has vetted more than 1,000 parliamentary bills during her reign to check whether any of them affect the crown or her private interests. Previously secret documents have disclosed that the Queen used the procedure to secretly lobby for some laws to be altered to benefit her private interests or reflect her opinions on government policy. The same procedure allows Charles to screen proposed laws in case they damage his property estate, the Duchy of Cornwall, which gives him a private income of around £22m a year.
In total, at least 275 draft laws have been vetted by the prince between 1970 and 2020 under this procedure. They include a wide range of laws from the ban on foxhunting to changes in inheritance laws. The prince declined to say how often he had asked for changes in proposed bills through the mechanism.
This is insane and, yes, feudalistic. Property ownership is one of the most important pathways to a thriving middle class, but Charles has always operated as a feudal lord, ordering Duchy farmers what to grow and how, and now we know that he’s also used the Crown’s arcane powers to screw over his long-term renters and residents. This is a huge economic issue and it’s bonkers that people are only finding out the extent to which Charles has screwed over his tenants for decades.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Avalon Red.