20th Century to Present
During the twentieth century, the Duchy evolved into a modern, commercial portfolio.
The Modern Duchy
The Duchy of Lancaster was in a prosperous position when Queen Victoria died in 1901. In the previous year, the payment to the Privy Purse had reached £61,000, the highest figure yet.
The twentieth century saw changes in the Duchy’s income. Revenue from minerals declined sharply following the nationalisation of the coal industry in 1938. This was balanced by income from agricultural estates purchased with compensation from nationalisation.
The Second World War affected the Duchy of Lancaster more than the First World War. The Savoy Chapel was bombed in 1940; some Duchy property was occupied for war purposes; and half of the Duchy woodlands were felled for the war effort, requiring a major replanting programme after the war.
With the return of peace, the Duchy estates were reorganised as part of a modernisation initiative. The estates were grouped into divisions named ‘Surveys’. Money was invested in improving the supply of water, electricity and sanitation.
The area of Enfield Chase in Greater London was sold by agreement to form part of the original Metropolitan Green Belt, and the proceeds were invested in more agricultural land. Purchases were mostly made near the Duchy’s historic holdings.
“The Queen, Duke of Lancaster!”
The present Queen retains a keen interest in the Duchy of Lancaster, which provides a regular income for Her Majesty to manage Her commitments. Throughout Her reign, She has made regular visits to the estate, and has strengthened the Duchy’s charitable work. www.royal.gov.uk
Seven centuries after it began, today’s Duchy is a modern, professional organisation looking confidently towards the future. All business decisions are made with the aim of ensuring that this unique and resilient institution remains in existence for centuries to come.