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History of Royal Titles: why is Queen Elizabeth II also known as The Duke of Lancaster?

Queen Elizabeth II
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Queen Elizabeth II is a monarch with many titles and many styles. One of her, perhaps, lesser-known titles is that of Duke of Lancaster, which she holds in her own right.

The Duke of Lancaster is a title that is always held by the sovereign and the Duchy of Lancaster provides an income to the monarch.

According to the Duchy’s official website, its rural holdings are “18,481 hectares of land in England and Wales and comprise commercial, agricultural and residential properties, the majority of which are in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire and Lincolnshire. Additionally, the Duchy has a significant commercial property portfolio largely in the Savoy precinct off the Strand in London, a portfolio of financial investments and a small urban residential portfolio.”

The Duchy of Lancaster also operates a Benevolent Fund that provides support to organisations within the counties of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside.

The sovereign has held the title since 1399 when Henry Bolingboke, Duke of Lancaster, deposed his cousin, Richard II, partly to win back the rich duchy which the king had taken from him. Henry had inherited it from his father, John of Gaunt, who had become duke through his first wife, Blanche. One of the first acts of the new King Henry IV was to declare that the Duchy of Lancaster would be changed to be held “separately from the other possessions of the Crown.”

The Queen works with a team, including the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a Duchy Council, and a Management Board to handle the portfolio. They meet at least five times a year to discuss issues related to the Duchy.

The current Chancellor of The Duchy of Lancaster is Michael Gove MP, who was appointed in 2019 to succeed Sir David Lidington MP. The Chancellor is responsible for the administration of the Duchy and answers directly to The Queen, even though he or she is appointed on the recommendation of the government.

The income of the Duchy of Lancaster is not subject to tax, although The Queen has paid it. The money provided to The Queen annually is thought to be around £20 million to provide her a personal income stream.

The Queen is usually only ever called ‘Duke of Lancaster’ when in the county of Lancashire. In the area, and at gatherings of Lancastrian regiments, the loyal toast to the Crown is usually to ”The Queen, the Duke of Lancaster.”

About author

Jess is a communications professional and freelance writer who lives in Halifax and has a passion for all things royal, particularly the British Royal Family.