Welcome to The Crown Estate
For information on frequently asked questions about The Crown Estate, please read on.
- Who owns The Crown Estate?show/hide
The Crown Estate belongs to the reigning monarch 'in right of The Crown', that is, it is owned by the monarch for the duration of their reign, by virtue of their accession to the throne. But it is not the private property of the monarch - it cannot be sold by the monarch, nor do revenues from it belong to the monarch.
The Government also does not own The Crown Estate. It is managed by an independent organisation - established by statute - headed by a Board (also known as The Crown Estate Commissioners), and the surplus revenue from the estate is paid each year to the Treasury for the benefit of all UK taxpayers.
To explain further, one analogy that could be used is that The Crown Estate is the property equivalent of the Crown jewels - part of the national heritage and held by Her Majesty The Queen as sovereign, but not available for her private use.
- How did The Crown Estate come into being?show/hide
Although the ownership of some property can be traced back to Edward the Confessor, the estate as a whole essentially dates from the time of the Norman Conquest.
In 1760, George III reached an agreement with the Government over the estate. The Crown Lands would be managed on behalf of the Government and the surplus revenue would go to the Treasury. In return the King would receive a fixed annual payment - what later became known as the Civil List.
Today, The Crown Estate operates under the auspices of The Crown Estate Act of 1961, which declares that the estate shall be managed by a Board who have a duty to maintain and enhance the value of the estate and the return obtained from it, but with due regard to the requirements of good management.
- What is The Crown Estate's relationship with HM Treasury?show/hide
The Treasury are effectively the principal Government stakeholder for The Crown Estate. They are kept informed of the estate's overall business plans and strategies, although responsibility for the management of the estate rests with the Board.
The Crown Estate is formally accountable to Parliament to which it reports annually.
The working relationship between The Crown Estate and the Treasury is described in a framework document which is updated annually or as occasion requires, and is available to download here:
HM Treasury and The Crown Estate (PDF, 114 KB)
- How does the Sovereign Grant Act affect The Crown Estate?show/hide
The Sovereign Grant Act became law in 2011.
The Act does not affect the managerial or operational functions of The Crown Estate or the way they are performed. We will continue to give our entire annual surplus (net profit) to the Treasury. The Act simply provides a mechanism that will be used by the Treasury to determine the amount of Government funding for the Monarch by reference to the amount of our annual surplus.
For a summary of the Act's provisions please visit:
- Does The Crown Estate manage the Royal Palaces?show/hide
No. The royal residences are divided into two categories:
1) Occupied Royal Palaces
Administered by the Royal Household and held in trust for future generations, e.g. Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. For further information, please visit:
2) Private Estates
Her Majesty The Queen's private possessions handed down from previous generations, e.g. Balmoral and Sandringham. The Historic Royal Palaces agency administers the palaces that are no longer in official use and are open to the public, e.g. Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London. For further information, please visit:
- Does The Crown Estate manage the Royal Parks?show/hide
Windsor Great Park is the only 'Royal Park' that is managed by The Crown Estate. All other Royal Parks are administered by The Royal Parks. Please visit:
- Is the Royal Family involved in the running of The Crown Estate?show/hide
No. The Crown Estate is run by a Board (The Crown Estate Commissioners) and their staff.
HRH The Duke of Edinburgh is the Ranger of Windsor Great Park, although daily issues are dealt with by the Deputy Ranger on the Windsor estate.
- Is there any relationship between The Crown Estate and the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster?show/hide
No. The two Duchies are completely separate organisations and operate under their own statutes.
For further information:
The Duchy of Cornwall
10 Buckingham Gate
telephone 020 7834 7346
website Duchy of Cornwall
The Duchy of Lancaster
website Duchy of Lancaster
- What is 'Crown land'?show/hide
This is a phrase often used to cover a variety of different properties such as:
- Land belonging to The Queen as monarch
- The Queen's private property
- Properties of the Duchies
- Government land
All of these definitions are partly correct, but naturally it can be somewhat confusing. To avoid this, we always refer to our property and land as being 'The Crown Estate'.
- What is Old Land Revenue Property?show/hide
Old Land Revenue Property is property that has been occupied by the Ministry of Defence or another government department since before 1702 (when by Act of Parliament the responsibility for the armed forces was changed from the Sovereign to the Government). When such property is no longer required by the Ministry of Defence or other government department it returns to the management of The Crown Estate.
Notable examples include Chester and Dover castles, which are both now managed by English Heritage.
- Does The Crown Estate have any shops, offices, flats or houses to let or for sale?show/hide
The Crown Estate conducts all its lettings and sales through property agents. Contact details for all the agents are available through our estate maps or managing agents' pages on this website.
- How much foreshore does The Crown Estate manage?show/hide
The Crown Estate manages around half of the foreshore around the UK coastline, although a good deal of this is leased to third parties such as local authorities and Natural England.
The remainder is owned or managed by bodies such as the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, local authorities, port authorities, statutory bodies and government departments. The following are among distinctive foreshore owners:
- The Church Commissioners in Durham
- The Duke of Beaufort in the Severn Estuary
- The Beaulieu Estate on the River Beaulieu.
The Crown Estate does not generally manage the foreshore around the coastline of Cornwall, Sutherland and the Shetland Isles.
- What happens to the boundaries of the foreshore when the sea advances or retreats?show/hide
If the process of change is natural, and happens imperceptibly from day to day, then ownership changes accordingly. Therefore, if land ceases to be tidal (e.g. foreshore or riverbed), it becomes the property of the adjacent landowner. Conversely if land erodes and naturally converts to tidal, then it becomes the property of the tidal landowner. Often this can be the Crown.
If the change is sudden and immediately visible, e.g. the breaching of flood defences in a storm, then the ownership remains as it was unless alternative agreements are made. The same is the case where changes occur as a result of human action, e.g. reclamation or digging out basins.
- Do whale carcasses beached on Crown Estate foreshore belong to The Crown Estate?show/hide
No. Whales, amongst other species, are part of what is known as 'Royal fish', and when beached, theoretically The Queen can claim ownership.
In practice however, is it dealt with by a government or local agency, dependent on the location of the whale - see below for more information.
England, Wales & Northern Ireland
Please contact the Receiver of Wreck, which is part of the Coastguard Agency.
Receiver of Wreck
The Coastguard Agency
105 Commercial Road
telephone (office hours) 02380 329 474
website Receiver of Wreck
The responsibility for Royal fish less than 25 feet in length rests with the local authority, who may wish to arrange for their disposal.
For whale carcasses over 25 feet in length, the local coastguard should notify the Scottish Government's Marine Scotland Directorate. They should also inform the Scottish Agricultural College, Veterinary Section, Inverness, who record all cetacean strandings around Scotland and who may wish to undertake a post-mortem.
The Scottish Government have produced guidance on how to respond to the stranding of a Royal fish - please visit:
Marine Scotland contact details to report Royal fish:
telephone 01224 295 579 (office hours)
07770 733 423 (outside office hours)
Scottish Agricultural College contact details to report stranding:
telephone 01463 243 030
Please note: LIVING whales should be reported to:
- RSPCA (England & Wales): hotline 0870 5555 999
- SSPCA (Scotland): hotline 0870 737 7722
- British Divers Marine Life Rescue: hotline 01825 765 546
- Does The Crown Estate assume management of 'unclaimed land'?show/hide
Freehold land can sometimes effectively become ownerless. When this happens title to the land may, in certain circumstances, revert to the Crown as the ultimate owner of all the land in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. This process is called 'escheat'. It can happen in a variety of situations.
The most common is where a registered company is wound up and dissolved without all its property being accounted for in the liquidation.
The Crown Estate deals with escheat where the land falls within England, Wales or Northern Ireland and outside Cornwall and the County Palatine of Lancaster - where escheat is dealt with by the Duchy of Cornwall and the Duchy of Lancaster respectively. Contact details for the Duchies are set out in the "Is there any relationship between The Crown Estate and the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster?" FAQ.
Ownerless land in Scotland is administered by The Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer.
Escheat should not to be confused with what in common parlance might be called 'unclaimed land'. Land can often have no apparent owner, but The Crown Estate will not generally be involved with such land unless it is in fact ownerless in circumstances where escheat applies.
Land comprised in the estates of persons who died without making a will and without known family is administered by the Treasury Solicitor.
If you wish to raise an issue relating to land which you think may be subject to escheat please contact our solicitors Burgess Salmon LLP. For their contact details and further information please visit the following guidance note:
Escheats guidance note
PDF (80 KB)
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