Cornish – English – Duchy – County

I have decided to enter the fray (maybe foolishly) over English – Cornish – Duchy – County. I might as well be up front and say I am not a native of Cornwall. In fact, I was not even born on these shores. I have watched, read and witnessed many debates, blogs and twitter feeds on Cornwall, the people and how it fits in with the rest of the UK.  I am not going to claim I am any historical buff on Cornwall, but I will say what I have to say from my view point.

There is no getting away from it, but Cornwall is something special. I am proud to live here. So much so I can say I love Cornwall like someone born of this land. I have been here since my late teens, so I can honestly say I have grown up in Cornwall. I do however struggle with some of the claims, points and views that certain people have. I am not saying they are wrong, as everyone has the right to an opinion. Like I have.

The first one is what makes you Cornish? Are you automatically Cornish if you are born here? Even if you are only born here by sheer coincidence? What happens if both or one of your parents are not Cornish? Are you less Cornish if you are not from pure Cornish stock? If so, how far back do you have to go to claim to be Cornish. Grandparents, Great Grandparents? It’s an interesting point, and one I have asked many times. Only to get different answers. Maybe if you just  live in and love Cornwall that is enough?

As for Duchy – County this is a complex issue. It’s a shame that we cannot go back in time and ask what the King really meant when he granted the land and titles. Did he do it to keep his son busy with the administration of Cornwall. Did he do it so his son was so busy that he could not usurp his own position. It was not uncommon in those times for many claimants to the throne, or for there to be many attempts to take it from the current holder, and more importantly, the treasury that came with that position.

Many claim that Cornwall is a Duchy and therefore not part of the mainland (England or even the UK), thus not making it a County. But what would happen if the Sovereign stripped those lands off the current holder? Without a Duke, it can’t be a Duchy. Then what happens? It may sound simplistic, but to the more republican viewpoint they may argue why do we need these ancient offices of Monarchy, Dukes, Earls etc. So without these titles and positions, you can’t have the title of Duchy.  You can’t have it both ways, or pick what parts you like/don’t like. An interesting point is if there are no sons of the Monarch, the Duchy remains in the power of the Monarch.

Maybe if the Sovereign gave some sort of ruling on this we might all understand. As for the Government, it administers Cornwall the same as any other County. They after all are the law makers of this land(s). If Cornwall is independent, then is the Duchy of Lancaster too? At least that generally has a Government Minister who is the Chancellor for that Duchy.

Even better would be if someone took this whole case to the High Court for a final judgement on this issue. Then maybe this yes/no/maybe would all be sorted once and for all (or would it?)

Here are some other viewpoints on this interesting and (very) complex issue

Jason Williams – Graham Smith – Cornish Republican  – Cornish Zetetics – Mudhook


  • Madder do ee

    You are Cornish if you identify as such, simple as that. Genetics has nothing to do with it, and I would imagine that the vast majority of Cornish people would agree. Considering you're a councillor who has decided to spend his time working for the people of Cornwall, you're quite welcome to identify as such if you wanted to, in my opinion.

    As for the Duchy issue, nobody claims that it isn't part of the UK. And I do believe that there is a provision in the Duchy Charters that says the Duchy still exists even if there isn't a Duke – here's a quote from John Kirkhope, a notary public solicitor who probably knows more about Duchy law than anyone:

    "The right for the Dukedom not to be extinguished for want of an heir:
    This is a unique characteristic of the Duchy. For about half the period since the Duchy was created there has been no Duke. It is an honour that passes to the eldest living son, being heir to the throne of England."

    You can read that and more in the original article by John Kirkhope:

    And I commend you for taking on the topic!

  • Shiner

    The three Duchy Charters make it a Duchy. It replaced an Earldom that was upholding existing Cornish rights.
    It was set up for many reasons, not just to create an income for the Heir but also for security from an increasing European threat.

    Angarrack's covered the no Duke issue, the official line is that the Duchy 'rests against' the Crown until there is a new Duke. This is important terminology as it confirms that the Duchy can never be absorbed into the Crown – for that would create a single Constitutional power for both England and Cornwall; the 2nd Duchy Charter grants the Duke the powers of a sovereign and assigns them to Cornwall only.

    You can't have two sovereigns in one Nation.

    The fact that it is administered as if it was an English Shire county has nothing to do with the constitutional position except that it would have required the permission of the Duke before it (CCC/CC)could have been set up.

    This latest trend of weighing up the Duchy, usually from a safe(ish) central stand point, is all well and good but the journey to grasping the complete Duchy picture is not a short one. Thankfully it has been made a lot easier by the likes of Angarrack, Pengelly and Murley.

    Anyone serious about understanding the Duchy should read the site from start to finish and then bring to the table any holes you find in the conclusions after first comparing them to the official Duchy site's account of its own history.

    As for being English/Cornish, its not a either/or situation. Its a sliding scale affected by many factors. To try pin it down to a single 'Cornishness' factor is a bit like asking how Indian is this curry I'm cooking.

    To me, its about what you miss and yearn for when you're on the wrong side of the Tamar..

  • Stephen Richardson

    The issue of what being Cornish means is something of a red herring. The question is often used to try to ridicule Cornish people. What is important is that there is a definite group of people that identify as being Cornish rather than being English. Who has the right to tell them otherwise?

    The Duchy of Cornwall was more 'recreated' or rather 'confirmed' than 'created' in the fourteenth century. Cornwall has always been a seperate part of Britain. It has never been part of England as such.For example in Norman times it was an Earldom – ruled by the Earl of Cornwall (Robert Mortain) as a viceroy. It is easy to visualise how Cornwall is seperate to England by thinking of William the Conqueror. He was the Duke of Normandy and the King of England and ruled both lands – yet England and Normandy weren't joined simply because they had the same ruler. Until Tudor times Cornwall was shown as a seperate country to England on maps and there is loads of evidence which demonstrates Cornwall's seperate status.

    There have been several attempts to take the issue to the courts but each time the attempt is thwarted by the English legal and administrative system. If someone had the money available to fund a court case then things would get very interesting.

  • craig weatherhill

    Personally, I tire of the question "What makes you Cornish?". Does anyone ask an Englishman what it is that makes him English (especially as Cornwall existed centuries before England was ever heard of)?

    Cornwall, a former Kingdom and Earldom, has been a Duchy and Crown Dependancy (opinion: John Kirkhope)for 700 years. To refer to it as merely a "county" demotes its status and does it no service. I, for one, won't do it. I always refer to The Duchy of Cornwall. On forms, I cross out 'county' and write in 'Duchy'. Why not? No one questioned this in the early-mid 20th century when Quiller Couch referred to "The Delctable Duchy", and guide books regularly used the word. Why is the term 'Duchy' so contentious now?

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