John Kirkhope


John Kirkhope “The Duchy of Cornwall – A Feudal Remnant?” “An examination of the origin, evolution and present status of the Duchy of Cornwall” ABSTRACT This thesis conducts a legal analysis of the Duchy of Cornwall and how its perceived status has changed over the centuries. The roots of the Duchy date back nearly a thousand years therefore an understanding of the roots of the Duchy and its evolution, focussing on the significant legal issues, over time is necessary to comprehend its present position. The thesis concludes by exploring issues surrounding the contemporary legal status of the Duchy and identifies areas in which there is a convenient ambiguity. In doing so it establishes that while the Duchy and Government describe it as a “private estate” it enjoys privileges and rights which are unique to a “private estate”. In addition it has a significant role in supporting the United Kingdom’s Head of State, the Sovereign, and the heir to the throne. The associated research undertaken in connection with this thesis presents new information which challenges the arguments of those who claim via the Duchy a special constitutional status for Cornwall. The evidence also suggests that the Duchy is not, despite claims to the contrary, publicly accountable in way that is expected in the 21st Century. The possibilities suggested by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 have been utilised and the experience gained will be of value to future researchers. As a consequence of the refusal of public authorities to provide information five complaints have been made to the Information Commissioner and there have been, at the time of writing, four cases in front of the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights). The material contained within the National Archives has been comprehensively investigated for the first time by anyone with any interest in the Duchy. This has revealed significant new information which although publicly available was not generally known and casts new light on the status of the Duchy. An exploration of the Parliamentary Archives, not previously undertaken, raises questions about the basis of the privileges enjoyed by the Duchy. A similarly detailed review of the legal material, including important court cases challenges the “rights” claimed for the Duchy.

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