Find answers to commonly asked questions
No. The Crown Estate is not the private property of the King. Our assets are hereditary possessions of the Sovereign held ‘in right of the Crown’. This means they belong to the Sovereign for the duration of their reign, but cannot be sold by them, nor do revenues from the assets belong to them.
The UK government does not own The Crown Estate either.
Established by an Act of Parliament in 1961 (see next answer) we are an independent, commercial business, managed by a Board (also known as The Crown Estate Commissioners).
This independence is critical to enable us to fulfil our core duties, act commercially and deliver our strategy to create environmental, social and financial value both now and for the long term.
We were established by an Act of Parliament in 1961 with two core duties – to grow both the value of the portfolio into perpetuity and the income we return to HM Treasury, with due regard to ‘good management’. Today, we express that through our purpose 'to create lasting and shared prosperity for the nation'.
The history of The Crown Estate before that goes back to 1760 when George III handed over land and property to the Government - with the revenue going to HM Treasury. This was in return for a fixed salary, which before the Sovereign Grant was called the Civil List.
To this day, we continue to give all of our net profit to HM Treasury for the benefit of the nation's finances.
The Treasury is charged by Parliament with general oversight of The Crown Estate’s business and acts as its sponsoring department within government.
The Sovereign Grant, which dates back to 2011, is a mechanism which benchmarks how much the Royal Household receives for public duties, against our net revenue profit. This is currently set at 12% and is applied to our profits two years in arrears. The percentage is regularly reviewed.
For more information on the Sovereign Grant you can visit here
No. The Crown Estate is managed independently by our Board (The Crown Estate Commissioners) and run by our Crown Estate employees.
Separately, His Majesty The King is the Ranger of Windsor Great Park, although daily operations are run by the Deputy Ranger.
No. We are completely separate from the two Duchies.
In addition to land belonging to The King by virtue of being Monarch (i.e. land owned by The Crown Estate), “Crown land” is a term often used to cover a variety of other properties such as: The King’s private estate, Properties of the Duchies and Government land.
However none of these three categories above fall under The Crown Estate’s ownership and to avoid confusion we always refer to our property and land as The Crown Estate, as opposed to “Crown Land”.
No, we do not manage any of the Royal Palaces.
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:The Royal Parks
Old Land Revenue Property is property that has been occupied by the Ministry of Defence or another government department since before 1702 (when by an 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 departments it returns to the management of The Crown Estate.
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.
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.
Please see section below on escheat for more detail.
No. You do not need to apply for a permit, this excludes the River Thames.
Anybody wishing to carry out metal detecting on our foreshore is granted a permissive right from The Crown Estate; this permissive right does not apply to the seabed or river beds or any other Crown Estate land. Please visit our Metal Detecting page for more information.
We do not grant permission for people to remove any gold by panning because of the damage gold panning can cause. Please also note that permission of the landowner is required to gain access to the stream or river if you wish to pan for gold.
We understand that this policy may disappoint some however our intention is to help preserve the aquatic environments which are susceptible to damage.
To understand more about the type of damage that gold panning can cause, please contact your relevant national statutory nature conservation organisation, as breaches of environmental and other legislation may result in prosecution or other action.
The Crown Estate owns the territorial seabed out to 12 nautical miles and around half of the foreshore around England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Hand harvesting of seaweed for any form of monetary or other reward from Crown foreshore or seabed will require a licence from The Crown Estate. The granting of the licence will be dependent upon relevant natural heritage authority (Natural England in most cases) confirmation of the sustainability of the harvesting proposal. Please visit our for more information on the process for licensing.
Collection for personal use does not require a licence and we are content for such collection to proceed for small quantities. We recommend anyone doing so takes account of environmental sensitivity of collecting anything from the wild.
Under our legal system, the Monarch (currently King Charles III), as head of state, owns the superior interest in all land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In most cases, this is usually irrelevant but it can become relevant if a freehold property becomes ownerless. If this happens, freehold land may, in some circumstances, fall to the monarch as the owner of the superior interest. This process is called 'escheat'.
The types of properties that become subject to escheat are wide ranging from verges, roadways, freehold reversions and amenity land to disused coal mines and, in some cases, historically significant property. There is no comprehensive list of properties that may be subject to escheat but The Crown Estate is aware of around 7,000 properties listed as being subject to escheat. Recent specific examples of escheat include the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Carlisle and the Trent Valley Recycling site in Worksop.
The Crown Estate, by convention only, through its appointed legal advisors Burges Salmon LLP, deals with the vast majority of instances where property may be deemed subject to escheat throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Please note that where properties subject to escheat are located within the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall, they will fall to be dealt with by those bodies, respectively.
There are a number of ways by which property may become subject to escheat, the most common of which are set out. Where a company has become insolvent and the Treasury Solicitor (of the Government Legal Department), a Trustee in Bankruptcy or a Liquidator disclaims freehold property owned by the insolvent company; When a foreign company which owned freehold land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland ceases to exist; or When an Industrial and Provident Society or a Friendly Society ceases to exist.
The Crown Estate, by convention only, through its appointed legal advisors Burges Salmon LLP, deals with the vast majority of instances where property may be deemed subject to escheat throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It must be ascertained beyond any reasonable doubt that a property is deemed subject to escheat before The Crown Estate will consider dealing with it.The Crown Estate does not take any action which might be construed as an act of management, possession or ownership in relation to the Property, since to do so may incur liabilities associated with the Property. As agreed with the Treasury, it is inappropriate for The Crown Estate to act as a guarantor of last resort for companies and individuals who have failed financially, leaving onerous property in their wake. To do so would not be an appropriate application of The Crown Estate's revenues, nor was it a function envisaged for The Crown Estate by Parliament. Properties that may be subject to escheat are frequently onerous in nature, and many have little or no monetary value. The total cost of all potential past, present and future liabilities connected to such properties, of which there are many, would be enormous. As The Crown Estate accounts to the Treasury for its operating surplus, such a cost would end up as a burden on the public purse.
Where it is desirable to sell land which is subject to escheat The Crown Estate is, in principle, prepared to transfer such interest as it has to an appropriate person or body in order to return the property to private ownership. In so doing: The Crown Estate can only sell the whole of the land subject to escheat in one transaction, as to sell part would constitute an act of management regarding the remainder; Any sale would be subject to any mortgages, legal charges or other encumbrances which might exist against the former freehold interest; The Crown Estate is required by statute to achieve the best consideration, having regard to all the circumstances, for any disposal of land; and Since The Crown Estate accounts to the Treasury, for the benefit of the public purse, it will always require a contribution to its legal costs from anyone seeking to purchase property or land subject to escheat.
In some cases, it will be necessary to undertake a local consultation exercise to ensure that any sale, if agreed, is in the interest of the locality and is made to an appropriate purchaser.