The Queen is the Duke of Lancaster. Since the fourteenth century, the Duke of Lancaster has always been the reigning monarch. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a member of the Cabinet. He administers bona vacantia within and makes a number of official appointments for the Duchy.
The Duchy is not, however, a public authority for the purposes of the EIR. So held the Tribunal in Cross v ICO (EA/2010/0101), a decision which is part history lesson, part legal judgment.
The history lesson in brief: the Duchy was created in 1351 from lands which had been seized by Henry III in 1265. By a charter of 1399, Henry IV ensured the separation of the Duchy as his hereditary family estate from those of the Crown. The Duchy of Lancaster Case (1561) 1 Plowd. 212 confirmed that the Duchy is an estate inherited by the sovereign in his or her private capacity, rather than qua head of state.
The legal judgment in brief: the Tribunal found that the Duchy is not a government department, a publicly-owned company or a body that carries out functions of public administration (or indeed public functions at all). It confirmed that, in this legislative context, “the Crown” means the central executive arm of government. It accepted – but emphasised that it was not confirming – that the Tribunal has jurisdiction over challenges to the Commissioner’s finding that a body is not a public authority. As to “public administration”, the Tribunal applied Port of London and Network Rail – but promulgated its decision before the Upper Tribunal’s recent decision in Smartsource (on which, see Anya Proops’ post here).
The Tribunal will hear a similar case concerning the Duchy of Cornwall shortly.