Cornish Foreshore Case

The Cornish Foreshore Case was a case of arbitration between the Crown and the Duchy of Cornwall between 1854 and 1858. Officers of the Duchy successfully argued that the Duchy enjoyed many of the rights and prerogatives of a county palatine and that although the Duke of Cornwall was not granted Royal jurisdiction, was considered to be quasi-sovereign within his Duchy of Cornwall. The arbitration, as instructed by the Crown, was based on legal argument and documentation which led to the Cornwall Submarine Mines Act 1858. The Arbitrator was Sir John Patteson who communicated with the appropriate officers of the Crown and Duchy. The law officer representing the Duchy was the Rt. Hon.Thomas Pemberton Leigh, Baron Kingsdown.

Administrative coup d’état claim

Although the Duchy had been shown to be extraterritorial to England in 1858, it has been claimed by Cornish historians that sometime between 1858 and 1888, a covert coup d’état attempted to gerrymander the malignant constitutional discrepancy, wrest Cornwall from the de jure jurisdiction of the Duchy of Cornwall and place it firmly within England. Several Acts of Parliament were made to disappear. The pre-1st charter Letters Patent and the last two Duchy charters were shredded. The English translation of the remaining 1st duchy charter was altered from the original translation.

These actions possibly took place after 1858 and prior to the UK Parliament passing the Local Government Act 1888 which created county councils. These actions were kept secret and the people of Cornwall were never consulted. The 1st duchy charter (Constitutional Law 10) is still on the statute books but is marked by government as being ‘revised’ again in 1978.

It is claimed that the co-conspirators in the coup d’état were the Government of the Duchy of Cornwall and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The arrangement was as follows: the Duke would forgo his charter rights, but the UK Parliament would ensure that these same rights were re-granted by dozens of unprecedented and entirely unique Acts of Parliament that acknowledged and secured the dukes status as a Head of State (complete with royal prerogatives and immunity from prosecution etc) alongside that of the Head of State of the UK.

Part of the compact involved the UK Parliament fabricating, and then maintaining, an elaborate hoax that would recast the Duchy of Cornwall as a commercial organisation, portray the Duchy of Cornwall Crown dependency government as a ‘management board’, and the duke as Head of State of a ‘private estate’.

Significance today

Today the Duchy of Cornwall describes itself as a private estate funding the public, charitable and private activities of The Prince of Wales and his family. It has been claimed that at some point after 1858, the officers of the Duchy, with the support of members of the UK Government, developed a plan to portray the Duchy of Cornwall as a ‘private estate’.

Many Cornish people today claim that this arbitration in favor of the Duchy shows that Cornwall is a territorial possession distinct both from England and the Crown. They also quote the Act of the Council of the first Duke in 1351 that sought proper clarification of persons in “Cornwall and England”.

As the UK government was forced to concede Duchy independence in 1858, it also acknowledged that Cornwall was co-terminus with the Duchy of Cornwall, and that Cornwall was the soil and territorial possession not of the Queen in right of the Crown of the United Kingdom, but the Duke of Cornwall in right of the Duchy of Cornwall.

As the presumptive, absolute and ultimate owner of the whole of Cornwall, the leaseholders and freeholders of Cornwall hold their land from the government of the Duchy of Cornwall. East of the Tamar, citizens hold their land from the Crown. The original Act of 1858 reveals that the Act restricts UK government jurisdiction to Cornwall’s offshore waters.