Things you never knew were on the Queen's land - from fast food chains and shopping centres

KING'S LYNN, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 25: Queen Elizabeth II attends the Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on December 25, 2019 in King's Lynn, United Kingdom. (Photo by Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage)
The Queen only actually owns a couple of estates privately. (WireImage)

The Queen has some incredible palaces and country homes at her disposal as the reigning monarch.

But she also owns several McDonald’s, quite a few Costas and a beer distribution centre.

Much of the UK’s land is owned by the Crown Estate, and while the Queen can’t sell it on, it is land which determines how much money she is granted each year.

Even with acres upon acres of farmland, the Queen isn’t the UK’s biggest landowner, and technically her son owns more than she does, through the Duchy of Cornwall.

Yahoo UK looks at how the Queen’s land is managed.

The Crown Estate

The Crown Estate is made up of land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which is owned by the monarch, while they are the monarch.

It’s not their private property and it passes onto the next monarch at accession.

Even though the crown owns it, the Queen, or whoever is the reigning monarch, is not actually involved in running or managing it.

Some of the best known places which are Crown Estate land include Regent Street, in Central London, and big parts of St James. The estate also owns areas of Piccadilly Circus.

It being central London, there are several pubs and hotels on Crown Estate, including the Regent Park Hotel, and fittingly, Theatre Royal.

Buckingham Palace looking empty in London, after the introduction of measures to bring the country out of lockdown. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Buckingham Palace is part of the Crown Estate. (Getty Images)

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But what about the rest of the country? Around the UK, there are some surprisingly places which are technically owned by the Queen.

For example, Aintree Shopping Park in Liverpool, the Carlsberg Distribution Centre in Northampton, and the MK1 Leisure Park in Milton Keynes are all on the Crown Estate.

She has a few McDonald’s to her name, as well as number of Costas and a Starbucks or two. The BBC rents space from her at Cambridge Business Park, and there’s a motorway services on Crown land on the M1.

The estate also runs seabeds around the coast of the UK, and offshore wind farms.

As well as seabeds, the estate has land across the country, including Windsor Great Park. However other royal parks, like Hyde Park for example, are run by the Royal Parks.

The total amount of rural land on the estate is 287,000 acres which includes lots of forests and common land.

If not the Queen, who runs the estate?

Crown land isn’t the Queen’s private land and it’s not the government’s land either.

So it’s run by an independent corporation, which describes itself as a “statutory corporation operating on a commercial basis”.

Board members are appointed by the Queen on recommendation of the government, and serve for four years. This can be extended, but non-executive board members can’t serve for longer than 10 years.

How did the estate come to be?

Back in 1760, the Sovereign, King George II, surrendered the surplus revenue, but not the ownership, of the land, in exchange for an income from the government.

That was known as the civil list for a long time (it became the Sovereign Grant in the 1990s). In 1961, the Crown Estate Act established the corporation which now looks after the land.

The board has a duty to “maintain and enhance the value of the estate and the return obtained from it” and be good managers of the land.

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Her palaces

The Queen’s palaces aren’t managed by the Crown Estate, but they are part of it.

The occupied palaces, places like Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, are managed by the Royal Collections Trust, who maintain the collections of art and co-ordinate the summer openings each year.

The RCT is a charity, and the money raised goes back into maintenance of the properties.

Her private homes

As well as the royal palaces, the Queen has inherited her own private homes over the years.

Balmoral and Sandringham were both inherited from her father, as was Craigowen Lodge in Scotland.

The homes are said to be some of her favourite places to stay, and she takes extended breaks in both through the year.

United Kingdom, Scotland, Aberdeenshire, Balmoral, View of the Balmoral Castle, Balmoral Castle is a castle located on the River Dee beneath the Lochnagar Mountain, Scotland, Queen Summer Residency, Victoria. (Photo by: Robert Plattner/Oneworld Picture/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Balmoral is the Queen's private estate in Scotland. (Getty Images)

She stays in Balmoral every summer, while Christmas is spent at Sandringham. She usually stays there until early February, as this marks her accession, and the anniversary of her father’s death.

It means her private land ownership is only about 20,000 acres - small fry compared to the rest of the estate.

There are some palaces which are no longer occupied by the royals - like Hampton Court Palace. These are managed by Historic Royal Palaces.

The Duchy of Lancaster

Despite being a woman, the Queen is, as sovereign, the Duke of Lancaster.

The duchy is a private estate, made up of 45,550 acres of land, which exists to bring in a private income for the Sovereign.

The duchy’s biggest commercial estate is the Savoy precinct, off the Strand, in London. Somerset House and the Savoy Hotel are both on this land.

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LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 12:  A general view of the atmosphere at the opening party of Skate  at Somerset House on November 12, 2019 in London, England. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, London's favourite festive destination opens at Somerset House on Wednesday 13th November and runs until Sunday 12th January 2020.  (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Fortnum & Mason)
Somerset House is part of the Duchy of Lancaster. (Getty Images)

However most of the rest of the estate is rural. It includes dozens of farms, lots of homes and cottages, and in South Wales, a limestone quarry, a castle and a golf course.

The Duchy of Lancaster is probably a title most associated with its relevant government position. Michael Gove is the current Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who manages the duchy on behalf of the Queen.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster recommends members of the Duchy Council to the sovereign, who appoints them, and they look after the properties.

The net income of the duchy is paid to the sovereign. At the end of March 2019, the Duchy of Lancaster had £549m of net assets under its control, delivering net surplus of £21.7m

The Duchy of Cornwall

The Duchy of Cornwall is similar to the Duchy of Lancaster, but is set up to provide an income to the Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne.

Charles, the current Prince of Wales, has three homes owned through the duchy, including Highgove House, Llwynywermod, his Welsh home, and Tamarisk on the Isles of Scilly.

There are 135,000 acres in the duchy, and it covers parts of England. The county of Cornwall is 2% duchy land.

NEWQUAY, ENGLAND - MARCH 22:  Prince Charles, Prince of Wales walks with Alastair Martin, Duchy of Cornwall Secretary & Keeper of the Records (L) and Michael Galsworthy (C) during a visit to Nansledan in Cornwall where he met local residents and unveiled a plaque for the development's new school on March 22, 2018 in Nansledan, England. Nansledan is an extension to the Cornish coastal town of Newquay built on Duchy of Cornwall land and embodies the principles of architecture and urban planning championed by the prince. (Photo by  Andrew Matthews - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Duchy of Cornwall gives Charles an income. (Getty Images)

The duchy’s net income was £21.7m in 2017–18. Much of this money goes to the Prince’s sons, William and Harry, for the running of their offices.

Since Prince Harry and his wife Meghan stepped back from their senior royal duties, it’s not clear whether they will still receive money from Charles’s duchy.

Charles’s duchy is technically larger than the Queen’s land, but it’s not as vast as the Crown Estate.

William will inherit the duchy when the Queen dies and Charles accedes to the throne.