Heritage

The Centuries-Old Reason Why Queen Elizabeth Is Also Known as the Duke of Lancaster

Come for explanation of the gender-bending titles, stay for a little historical drama.
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES / SAMIR HUSSEIN
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Queen Elizabeth is a woman known by many names. To her great-grandchildren, she's Gan-Gan, and to most of her subjects, she's Her Majesty. But for a select group of Brits, the Queen goes by a very different title: Duke of Lancaster.

Despite being a woman, the Queen is known as a Duke as opposed to a Duchess, and today, she will be toasted as such.

As royal blog the Crown Chronicles pointed out on Twitter, "Today is Lancashire Day, marking the area first sending representatives to Parliament in 1295. During the day, you may hear a chorus of 'Long live our noble Duke' instead of 'God Save The Queen,' as the reigning Monarch's title in that county is 'Duke of Lancaster.'"

Indeed, according to the official Duchy of Lancaster's website, the reigning sovereign has held the specific title of Duke of Lancaster (never the Duchess of Lancaster) since 1399.

The site goes into detail about the history of the royal title, noting that when John of Gaunt, the Second Duke of Lancaster died in 1399, "his nephew King Richard II confiscated the Lancaster inheritance and banished John’s son, Henry Bolingbroke, from England for life."

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A portrait of King Henry IV

Bolingbroke was back in just a year, and with an army at his back, forced his brother to abdicate "He ascended to the throne as Henry IV in October 1399. One of Henry’s first acts as King was to stipulate the conditions in which the Lancaster inheritance should be held, specifying that it should be held separately from all other Crown possessions, and should descend through the Monarchy as a private estate."

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In 1702, the Crown Lands act clarified that the King or Queen would "only receive income and not capital from the Duchy." And so it has been ever since—the Queen continues to receive income from the Duchy, a revenue which is kept separate from other Crown properties.

In her capacity as Duke, Elizabeth has visited the area a number of times over the course of her reign. For example, here she is leaving Lancaster's town hall in 1955:


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And here she is being presented with the keys to the city in 2015:


This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Caroline Hallemann
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