Practice known as “bona vacantia” allows the monarch to collect assets from Britons who died in several counties
The British newspaper The Guardian showed this Thursday (November 23, 2023) that King Charles III would be profiting from the assets of people killed in northwest England. The assets would be used to expand his real estate assets, managed by his inheritance.
The Duchy of Lancaster, a royal estate that is a significant source of income for the monarch, is said to have accumulated millions of pounds through a feudal system that collects financial assets from individuals who die without a will or known relatives.
The practice known as “good vacation” has resulted in over £60 million being raised over the last 10 years. The duchy states that proceeds are donated to charities.
However, according to the British newspaper, internal documents reveal that the funds are “secretly” used in works on the king’s properties, later rented out for profit. The duchy would inherit the funds of people whose last known address is in the former Lancashire region, which today encompasses the county of Lancashire and parts of Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Cumbria.
An internal duchy document leaked in 2020 gave authorities responsible for the king’s property authorization to use the funds “good vacation” in several properties in its real estate portfolio. Named “SA9”, the policy recognizes that the use of this money may provide an “accidental” benefit to the monarch’s personal income.
Other leaked texts identified properties eligible for use of these funds, including urban homes, rural residences, agricultural buildings and even barns.
Improvements to the monarch’s properties include the installation of new roofs, windows, boilers, and the replacement of doors and lintels. One document mentions the renovation of an old farm in Yorkshire into a luxury residence, as well as the transformation of a farm building into commercial offices.
According to the Guardian, these practices have increased the profitability of rental properties, indirectly benefiting the King, who receives millions in profits from the Duchy of Lancaster annually. Earlier this year, in his first payment since inheriting his mother’s estate, Charles received £26 million from the duchy.
Buckingham Palace has not commented on the case. A representative of the Duchy of Lancaster stated that, after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch supported the continuation of the policy of using the resources of “good vacation” already “restoration and repair of qualified buildings, aiming to protect and preserve them for future generations”.
In most of England and Wales, according to “good vacation” which, in Latin, means ownerless goods, the goods of people who die without a will and without identifiable relatives go to the Treasury, used for public services. But two royal family estates are entitled to receive “good vacation” of deaths in regions of England and also of dissolved companies, one of them being the Duchy of Lancaster, inherited by King Charles 3rd.
As of May 2020, the practice gained more strength with the introduction of the policy “SA9”who advised Duchy of Lancaster staff on the use of “good vacation”. The policy avoids the term, opting instead for an imprecise reference to “special costs”.
The text indicates that the funds can be used for the “public good”, including the repair, restoration, preservation and protection of duchy properties classified as “inheritance assets”. However, this definition covers more than the buildings listed on the National Heritage List for England, which is the country’s official list for buildings, monuments, parks, gardens, wrecks, battlefields and World Heritage sites.
With a broader definition, duchy properties qualify for “good vacation” if they are in 7 other categories, such as buildings in conservation areas, places of scientific interest or areas of “exceptional natural beauty”. Properties may also receive financing if they are deemed by officials to be of “local historical importance”.