Cornwall was not administered as part of England in 1215 when Magna Charta was accepted by the King.  This separation was in place in 1305 when two almost  identical Charters for the Stannaries were made the one covering Celtic Cornwall and the other Anglo-Saxon Devon.  (“The Stannaries”, G.R.Lewis, Harvard, 1908, page 85).

Did Magna Charter apply to Cornwall and the Duchy of Cornwall?

The Duchy of Cornwall is on record as claiming royal prerogative rights in Cornwall in reliance on its third Charter of 3rd January 1338 which provided the Duke with “the king’s Writ, summons of exchequer or to do any other office there”, (in Cornwall).

“It is moreover, submitted that the three Duchy Charters are sufficient in themselves to vest in the Dukes of Cornwall, not only the government of Cornwall, but the entire territorial dominion in and over the county which had previously been vested in the Crown, with all such royal prerogatives as would naturally accompany, and the enjoyment of which would only be consistent with a grant of so high a character, including most, if not all, of the rights and privileges enjoyed by the owner of a county Palatine, – for, on inspecting these charters, it will be found that not only all the territorial possessions of the Crown in Cornwall, but every prerogative right and source of revenue (except royal jurisdiction, and, it may be ecclesiastical patronage)  were granted or confirmed to the Duchy by one or other of these charters”.  (Preliminary Statement by the Officers of the Duchy of Cornwall in their dispute with the Crown over the ownership of the Foreshore of Cornwall which was decided in 1858 in favour of the Duchy of Cornwall.   Source documents: “ The Acts of the Council of the Black Prince”, (the first Duke of Cornwall), from 25 Ed. III [1352]; Cornwall Foreshore Appendix N, pp.76-79, & Supplementary Appendix II, The three Duchy Charters 1337/8, pp. 102-109, at National Archives reference W.54/1865).

The Parliament at Westminster confirmed Magna Charter in 1297 in the form of an Act of Parliament.    Magna Charta does not mention the Heir to the Throne, while  Parliamentary convention provides that unless specifically stated an Act does not apply to the Heir to the Throne, i.e., the Duke of Cornwall.

In her presentation to the House of Commons for a Magna Charta Bank Holiday Act, Mrs Eleanor Laing, M.P., Epping Forest, affirmed:  “Magna Charta established the very idea of the rule of law.  It was the first formal document to insist that no one is above the law”.  The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights  promotes: “Equality before the law” as the basic human right for which there is no explanation for the absence of a supportive formal document in English law.

The unique powers and prerogatives of the third Duchy of Cornwall Charter of 1338 for the Duke of Cornwall in Cornwall reveal incompatibility with Magna Charta.  Duchy feudal powers and rights are hidden behind the claim that the Duchy is a private estate with exemption from the Freedom of Information Act as amended.   Duchy interests, in line with the third charter, include exemptions from Acts affecting land and the Prince of Wales as Duke of Cornwall enjoys exemption from criminal liability in various contemporary Acts of Parliament.

There are, consequently, important constitutional questions for which answers are urgently needed in a democratic society.

Is the Heir to the Throne, as Duke of Cornwall, subject to the still existing Chapter 29 of the 1297 Magna Charta?

Magna Charta, Chapter 29, affirms:- “No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his freehold, or liberties, or free customs, or be outlawed, or exiled or any other wise destroyed; nor will we not pass upon him, nor [condemn him] but by lawful judgement of his peers, or by the law of the land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either justice or right”.  (Listed in Halsbury’s Laws as Chapter 29).  (Translated from the original Latin).

Will the government, in its proposed Act to legalise official digital monitoring of all e-mails, etc., authorise the Duke of Cornwall to monitor all Cornish e-mails under the powers of the third Duchy of Cornwall Charter provision of: “to do any other office there”?

© Save Cornwall – 3rd April 2012

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