English history has been led by the traditions of our monarchy. Our national identity results from an historic lineage that recognises inherited traditions dating back to Anglo-Saxon roots.
Monarchy is associated with political and sociocultural hereditary rule. Our morally based society has evolved from the traditions created through the Christian based hereditary monarchy. The principle system of which has been the application of primogeniture or patrimonial lineage.
The British Monarchy today is known as a constitutional monarchy. This means that while the Sovereign is Head of State, the ability to make and pass legislation resides with the elected Parliament. The Crown is the legal embodiment of the executive and the judicial governance of the nation. The monarch is both the fount of justice and the fount of honour, being the source of all honours and dignitaries in the United Kingdom.
The Crown Lands and Feudal Rights (a brief comment)
William I, acquired all the land ‘by right of conquest’. His successors granted large estates to nobles and barons who in return supplied men and arms. Remaining land was divided into ‘royal manors’ each managed by a seneschal. Crown lands were augmented at times. Edward I, gained possessions into Wales and James VI (and I) had his own Crown lands in Scotland. Several disposals considerably reduced the Crown holdings.
After the ‘Glorious Revolution’, Parliament retained its own control, relieving the Sovereign of military and national debt. As the state has expanded, so has the cost of civil government exceeded the income from Crown lands and feudal rights. George III, was granted a civil list payment and the income from the ‘Duchy of Lancaster’* The Sovereign Grant Act 2011 consolidated the Civil List with the Royal Palaces and Royal Travel grants in aid. The ‘Grant’ enables future sovereigns with a more durable and transparent framework.
The rural portfolio consists of around 1,960,000 acres of agricultural land and forest together with mineral rights, residential and commercial properties. This includes Ascot Racecourse, Windsor Great Park, the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster and rights in the Continental Shelf (seabed) with gas and carbon storage. Other rights and interests include Shopping Centres, Retail parks and income from the Savoy Estate in London.
The Crown forests and woodland plantations such as those in the Royal Forest of Dean, are not subject to the public ‘rights to roam’ of the CRoW Act 2000. There are several rural wildlife sanctuaries that are owned by the Crown, typically is ‘Princes Covert’, an area of 864 acres of managed woodland in Oxshott, Surrey. Otherwise known as Oxshott Woods, such land is open to the public by ‘permission’ and not ‘by right’.
* See post Subject ‘Duchies’ of Lancaster and of Cornwall