The Duchy of Lancaster

Edward III created Henry Grosmont 1st Duke of Lancaster for his heroic efforts in France ‘in recognition of astonishing deeds of prowess and feats of arms’. In the same Charter, Edward III raised Lancaster to a County Palatine during Henry’s lifetime. This meant that the new Duke had ‘sovereign’ rights in the County in the spheres of justice and administration. The Law Courts in Lancaster were under The Duke’s administration and he appointed the Sheriffs, Judges, Justices of the Peace and other senior officers.

John of Gaunt was created 2nd Duke of Lancaster and in 1390 this grant was extended to his heirs.

Today the title of The Duke of Lancaster is vested in the Crown and hence The King is the Duke of Lancaster.  For more details go to the Duchy’s own website.


Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund

When a person dies within the County Palatine without leaving a will, the Duchy receives their estate as ‘Bona Vacantia’ in cases when other legal ownership cannot be established.

The balance of the monies from ’Bona Vacantia’, after various costs have been met, will be shared between charitable trusts including the Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund.  This was established in 1993 to benefit local charities within the County Palatine.  Today the three Lord-Lieutenants of Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Lancashire receive an allocation annually from the Fund to support charities and other benevolent organisations within their County.  

If you wish to apply for a grant and you are based in Merseyside, please complete the application form and email it to Helen Tanzey, the Clerk to the Lieutenancy, on email