Duke of Cornwall

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Dukedom of Cornwall
Arms of the Duchy of Cornwall.svg
Creation date
  • 1337 (first creation)
  • 1376 (second creation)
  • 1460 (third creation)
Created by
PeeragePeerage of England
First holderEdward of Woodstock
Present holderWilliam, Prince of Wales
Extinction date
  • 1377 (second creation)
  • 1460 (third creation)
Former seat(s)Restormel Castle
MottoIch dien (I serve)
Duke of Cornwall
Flag of the Duke of Cornwall.svg
Banner of the Duke of Cornwall
Duke of Cambridge (Chair of State) 2022 (crop1).jpg

since 8 September 2022
StyleHis Royal Highness
Member ofBritish royal family
Term lengthLife tenure or until accession as Sovereign
WebsiteOfficial website

Duke of Cornwall is a title in the Peerage of England, traditionally held by the eldest son of the reigning British monarch, previously the English monarch. The Duchy of Cornwall was the first duchy created in England and was established by a royal charter in 1337.[1] The present duke is Prince William. His wife, Catherine, is the current Duchess of Cornwall.


Some folkloric histories of the British Isles, such as Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain (1136), claim that the first leader of Cornwall was Corineus, a Trojan warrior and ally of Brutus of Troy, portrayed as the original settler of the British Isles. From then through the Arthurian period, such legendary Dukes of Cornwall stood apart from the High-King of Britain, while serving as his closest ally and, at times, as his protector (all per Monmouth's collected yarns). Notably in this tale, Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall under King Uther Pendragon, rebelled when the king became obsessed with Gorlois' wife Igraine. Uther killed Gorlois and took Igraine: the son was King Arthur.


The historical record suggests that, following the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain, Cornwall formed part of a separate Kingdom of Dumnonia, which included Devon, although there is evidence that it may have had its own rulers at times. The celtic southwest of Britain was gradually conquered by the emerging germanic Kingdom of England, and after the Norman Conquest in 1066 the new rulers of England appointed their own men as Earl of Cornwall, the first of whom was in fact a Breton of "Cornwall" in Brittany.

Edward of Woodstock (widely known as "The Black Prince") the eldest son of King Edward III, was made the first Duke of Cornwall in 1337, after Edward III had lost the title of Duke of Normandy.[2] Cornwall was the first dukedom conferred within the Kingdom of England.[3]


The charter that established the estate on 17 March 1337 set out the rule that the duke and possessor of the estate would be the eldest son and heir apparent of the monarch.[1] There were some deviations from this rule until a legal case (The Prince's Case) in 1606, which held that the rule should be adhered to.[4]

When the estate is without a duke, the possessor is the monarch, even if the former duke left surviving descendants.[1] The monarch's grandson, even if he is the heir apparent, does not succeed to the dukedom. Similarly, no female may ever be Duke of Cornwall, even if she is heir presumptive or heir apparent (this being a distinct and even likely possibility in the future after the passage of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013), although a queen regnant without a son would be the de facto duke. However, if a Duke of Cornwall should die without descendants (and also no sister between the two brothers if the younger one was born after 28 October 2011),[5] his next brother obtains the duchy, this brother being both the oldest living son and heir apparent.

It is possible for an individual to be Prince of Wales and heir apparent without being Duke of Cornwall. The title "Prince of Wales" is the traditional title of the heir apparent to the throne, granted at the discretion of the sovereign (not automatically) and is not restricted to the eldest son.

For example, after the death of Frederick, Prince of Wales, King George II's heir apparent was his grandson George (Frederick's eldest son and the future George III). The young Prince George was created Prince of Wales but did not become Duke of Cornwall because he was the king's grandson, rather than his son. When the sovereign has no legitimate son, or when the heir apparent is not the sovereign's son, the estates of the Duchy of Cornwall revert to the Crown until a legitimate son or until the accession of a new monarch who has a son.

James Francis Edward Stuart, son of King James II, was born Duke of Cornwall in 1688. Although his father lost the throne, James Francis Edward was not deprived of his own titles and honours as a result of his father's deposition. Instead, from the (prevailing) Hanoverian perspective, 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.[3] However, from the (minority) Jacobite perspective, on his father's death in 1701 the duchy of Cornwall was merged with the Crown.

Rights of the duke[edit]

The duchy includes over 220 square miles (570 square kilometres) of land, more than half of which lies in Devon. The duke has some rights over the territory of Cornwall, 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. In 2013, the duchy had a revenue surplus of £19 million, a sum that was exempt from income tax, though the previous Prince of Wales chose to pay the tax voluntarily.[6]

Until 2011, if there was no Duke of Cornwall at any time, then the income of the duchy went to the Crown. Since the passing into law of the Sovereign Grant Act 2011, revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall pass to the heir to the throne, regardless of whether that heir is the Duke of Cornwall. When the heir is a minor, 10% of revenues pass to the heir, with the balance passing to the Crown (and the Sovereign Grant is reduced by the same amount).[7]

Coat of arms[edit]

Coat of arms of the Duchy of Cornwall, granted in 1968.

The coat of arms of the Duke of Cornwall is blazoned as sable, fifteen bezants, that is, a black field bearing fifteen golden discs. The arms are now used as a badge by the Prince of Wales, and they appear below the shield in his coat of arms, along with his other badges.

The arms were adopted late in the 15th century, based on the arms of Richard, Earl of Cornwall. The bezants in Richard's arms were intended to represent peas, known in French as pois, as a punning reference to the French region of Poitou, of which he was count.[8]

On 21 June 1968 a royal warrant augmented the aforementioned arms with the heir apparent's coronet, which consists of four crosses patée and four fleurs-de-lises with one arch (used only by the Prince of Wales). The supporters are two Cornish choughs, each supporting an ostrich feather. The motto used with the arms is Houmout or Houmont, meaning "high-spirited", the personal motto of the Black Prince.[9]

Dukes of Cornwall, 1337 creation[edit]

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 dukedom. 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 Monarch From To Other title held while Duke
Edward of Woodstock
("The Black Prince")
Edward III 1337
Prince of Wales (1343), Prince of Aquitaine (1362–1372), Earl of Chester (1333)
Henry of Monmouth Henry IV 1399
(acceded as Henry V)
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1399), Duke of Aquitaine (1390), Duke of Lancaster (1399)
Henry Plantagenet Henry V 1421
(acceded as Henry VI)
Duke of Aquitaine (1421)
Edward of Westminster Henry VI 1454
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1454)
Edward Plantagenet Edward IV 1471
(acceded as Edward V)
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1471), Earl of March (1479), Earl of Pembroke (1479)
Edward of Middleham Richard III 1483
(father's accession)
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1483), Earl of Salisbury (1478)
Arthur Tudor Henry VII 1486
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1489)
Henry Tudor 1502
(death of older brother)
(acceded as Henry VIII)
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1504), Duke of York (1494)
Henry Tudor Henry VIII 1511
Edward Tudor 1537
(acceded as Edward VI)
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1537)
Henry Frederick Stuart James VI and I 1603
(father's accession)
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1610), Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Baron of Renfrew (1469), Lord of the Isles (1540), Prince and Great Steward of Scotland (1469)
The italicised henceforth "Duke of Rothesay, etc (1469 & 1540)"
Charles Stuart 1612
(death of older brother)
(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)
Charles James Stuart Charles I 1629
Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540)
Charles Stuart 1630
(acceded as Charles II)
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1638), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540)
James Francis Edward Stuart
("The Older Pretender")
James II 1688
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1688–1702), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469–1702 & 1540–1702)
George Augustus George I 1714
(father's accession)
(acceded as George II)
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1714), Hereditary Elector of Hanover, Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540), Duke of Cambridge, Marquess of Cambridge, Earl of Milford Haven, Viscount Northallerton, Baron Tewkesbury (1706)
Frederick Louis George II 1727
(father's accession)
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)
George Augustus Frederick George III 1762
(acceded as George IV)
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1762), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540)
Albert Edward Victoria 1841
(acceded as Edward VII)
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1841), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540), Earl of Dublin (1850)
George Frederick Ernest Albert Edward VII 1901
(father's accession)
(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)
Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David George V 1910
(father's accession)
(acceded as Edward VIII)
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1910), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540)
Charles Philip Arthur George Elizabeth II 1952
(mother's accession)
(acceded as Charles III)
Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1958), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 & 1540), Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich (1947)
William Arthur Philip Louis Charles III 2022
(father's accession)
Incumbent Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (2022), Duke of Rothesay, etc. (1469 &1540), Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, Baron Carrickfergus (2011)

Dukes of Cornwall, 1376 creation[edit]

When his heir apparent, Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall, predeceased him, King Edward III granted a new creation of the title "Duke of Cornwall" to his grandson, Richard of Bordeaux. When he acceded the throne as Richard II in 1377, this creation merged with the Crown.

also Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1376)

Dukes of Cornwall, 1460 creation[edit]

When Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York pressed his claim to the throne, he was made heir apparent to King Henry VI by the Act of Accord. On 31 October 1460, he was made Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall and Lord Protector of England. Since he was not the eldest living son of the monarch, this creation was outside the terms of the 1337 warrant; York died in battle two months later, on 30 December 1460.

also Lord Protector of England, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (1460, see Act of Accord); Duke of York (1385), Earl of Ulster (1264), Earl of March (1328), Earl of Cambridge (1414, restored 1426), feudal Lord of Clare (bt. 1066–1075), Baron Mortimer of Wigmore (1331)

Jacobite duke[edit]

Charles Edward Louis John Sylvester Maria Casimir Stuart ("The Young Pretender"), eldest son and heir apparent of King James III and VIII (James Francis Edward Stuart, popularly known as "The Old Pretender"), was born in Rome, on 31 December 1720, and was declared shortly after his birth Prince of Wales, and by consequence, Earl of Chester. On 1 January 1766 he succeeded his father as de jure King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland. He died on 31 January 1788.[10]

Family tree[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c A Charter of 1337
  2. ^ Blackstone, William (1765-1769) Commentaries on the Laws of England, book 1 chapter 12
  3. ^ a b Complete Peerage: 'Duke of Cornwall'
  4. ^ 77 ER 481, 8 Coke Report 1a, [1606] EWHC Ch J6
  5. ^ Succession to the Crown Act 2013, section 1
  6. ^ Thomson, Ainsley (15 July 2013). "U.K. Lawmakers Go After Tax Affairs of the Royal Family". The Wall Street Journal.
  7. ^ "Sovereign Grant Act 2011: guidance". GOV.UK. 5 November 2019.
  8. ^ Planché, James (1859). The Pursuivant of Arms; or, Heraldry Founded on Facts. R. Hardwick. p. 136.
  9. ^ Briggs, Geoffrey, Civic and Corporate Heraldry (1971), p. 122.
  10. ^ Ruvigny and Raineval, Marquis of, Melville Amadeus Henry Douglas Heddle de La Caillemotte de Massue de Ruvigny (1904). The Jacobite peerage, baronetage, knightage and grants of honour. Edinburgh: T.C. and E.C. Jack. p. 31. Retrieved 14 November 2016.

External links[edit]