Duke of Cornwall

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The Dukedom of Cornwall was the first dukedom created in the peerage of England.

The present Duke of Cornwall is The Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning British monarch (since 1952).



According to legend, Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall under King Uther Pendragon, rebelled against the latter's rule when the king became obsessed with Gorlois' wife Igraine. Uther killed Gorlois and took Igraine: the result of their union was the future King Arthur. According to history, during the Dark Ages there existed an independent Kingdom of Cornwall but by c.900AD this had become an English dependency with its final native rulers using the title Earl of Cornwall. After the Norman Conquest the new rulers of England appointed their own men as earl. After 1337 Cornwall became a royal duchy with the Dukedom of Cornwall always belonging to the eldest legitimate son of the Sovereign.

Cornwall was the first dukedom conferred within the Kingdom of England, although the Dukes of Normandy (King of England), Brittany (Earl of Richmond) and Aquitaine (Duke of Lancaster) held substantial estates and fiefs within England, being based in France. The Cornish dukedom was first created for Edward, the Black Prince, the eldest son of Edward III in 1337. After Edward predeceased the King, the dukedom was recreated for his son, the future Richard II. Under a charter of 1421, the dukedom passes to the Sovereign's eldest son and heir.

If the Duke of Cornwall dies, his eldest son does not inherit the Dukedom. However, if the Duke of Cornwall should die without children, his next brother obtains the Dukedom. Underlying these rules is the principle that only a son of the Sovereign—never a grandson, even if he is the heir apparent—may be Duke of Cornwall; similarly, no female may ever be Duke of Cornwall, even if she is heiress presumptive or heiress apparent to the throne. It is possible for an individual to be Prince of Wales and heir apparent without being Duke of Cornwall. For example, King George II's heir-apparent, the future George III, was Prince of Wales, but not Duke of Cornwall (because he was the King's grandson, not the King's son). When the Sovereign has no legitimate son, the estates of the Duchy of Cornwall revert to the Crown until a legitimate son is born to the Sovereign or until the accession of a new Sovereign who has a son (e.g. between 1547 and 1603) (see more below).

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