Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen, Duke of Lancaster
On 6th February 2022, Her Majesty The Queen became not only the longest service British Monarch but also the longest serving Duke of Lancaster in the nation’s history.
The Platinum Jubilee celebrations are therefore two-fold, marking Her Majesty’s 70-year reign as Monarch and 70 years as Duke of Lancaster.
The Duchy of Lancaster is a private estate which belongs to the reigning Monarch. It is an ancient inheritance which began in 1265 when Henry III gifted the baronial lands of Simon de Montfort to his son, Edmund. A year later, Henry added the estate of Robert Ferrers, Earl of Derby and then the ‘honour, county, town and castle of Lancaster’, giving Edmund a new title, Earl of Lancaster.
Two years later in 1267, Edmund also received from his father the manor of Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire, together with lands and estates in both Yorkshire and Lancashire. This substantial inheritance was further added to by Edmund’s mother, Eleanor of Provence, who in 1284 bestowed on him the manor of the Savoy in London.
In 1351, Edward III conferred the title of Duke of Lancaster on the celebrated diplomat and soldier, Henry Grosmont, son of Henry 3rd Earl of Lancaster. Edward also raised Lancaster to a County Palatine for the duration of Henry’s life, giving the Duke devolved royal powers. When Henry died in 1361, the inheritance became part of his daughter Blanche’s dowry and, as only a male heir could inherit the Dukedom, her husband John of Gaunt became the second Duke of Lancaster in 1362. He persuaded his father Edward III to grant the Palatinate powers to him and his heirs permanently.
When John died in 1399, his nephew King Richard II confiscated the Lancaster inheritance and banished John’s son, Henry Bolingbroke, from England for life. However, within the year, Henry Bolingbroke returned from exile, raised an army and forced Richard to abdicate. He ascended to the throne as Henry IV in October 1399 and one of his first acts was to stipulate the conditions in which the Lancaster inheritance should be held, specifying that it should be held separately from all other Crown possessions, and should descend through the Monarchy as a private estate.
Commenting on this year’s historic milestone, Duchy CEO Nathan Thompson said: “As Duke of Lancaster, The Queen has always taken a close personal interest in the affairs of the Duchy and its legacy. Her Majesty’s extraordinary life of service serves as an inspiration to us all, encouraging us to do the right thing in order to uphold the values and commitment that have defined The Queen’s 70-year reign. We offer Her Majesty our warmest congratulations on achieving this Platinum Jubilee and look forward to many more years of working with and for the longest serving Duke of Lancaster in British history.”
The title Duke of Lancaster is used regardless of the gender of the reigning Monarch. This is a tradition which originated with Queen Victoria who believed that the title Duchess referred to the spouse of a duke as opposed to the holder of a royal Dukedom. Her Majesty The Queen is therefore always referred to as the Duke of Lancaster and the loyal toast across the County Palatine is ‘The Queen, Duke of Lancaster!”