REVEALED: How King Charles ‘profits from the assets of dead citizens’ and ‘uses them as free money to do up his estates’
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  • Duchy of Lancaster has collected assets of the dead worth more than £60million

King Charles has been accused of profiting from the dead as insiders claim his property empire is using their assets as ‘free money’ and a ‘slush fund’.

The monarch’s private estate the Duchy of Lancaster has long collected assets owned by people who died in its jurisdiction without a will or next of kin in a feudal system known as ‘bona vacantia’.

In the past decade it has collected more than £60million which – after costs – is said be distributed to charities set up by the late Queen.

These include the Duchy of Lancaster Jubilee Trust, established in 2001, which supports the maintenance and preservation of heritage assets across the estate for the ‘public benefit’.

But internal duchy documents obtained by the Guardian reportedly reveal how funds are increasingly being used to finance the renovation of properties that are rented out for profit. 

King Charles has been accused of profiting from the dead as insiders claim his property empire is using their assets as ‘free money’ and a ‘slush fund’

The 2020 policy entitled SA9 states that funds can be used for the ‘public good’ to repair, preserve and protect duchy properties when they are categorised as a ‘heritage asset’.

However the definition goes beyond listed buildings and includes any that fall within further categories including those in conservation areas or an area of outstanding national beauty (AONB), or if they are deemed to be of ‘local historical importance’ or of special scientific interest.

A Guardian analysis suggests the 2020 policy gave the duchy licence to spend bona vacantia on as much as half of its massive property portfolio.

Three sources familiar with the duchy’s expenditure confirmed to the Guardian that the estate was using revenues collected from the dead to refurbish its massive property portfolio.

One said that duchy insiders treated the bona vacantia funds as ‘free money’ and a ‘slush fund’.

Properties identified as eligible for funding include town houses, holiday lets, rural cottages, an old petrol station and barns, including one used to facilitate partridge shoots in Yorkshire.

One document refers to the renovation of an old farmhouse to help transform it into a high-end residential let while another project saw a farm building converted into commercial offices.

In some instances, the money has been spent to buy log burners for properties owned by the king and rented out by his estate.

One source said that duchy insiders treated the bona vacantia funds as ‘free money’ and a ‘slush fund’

One source said that duchy insiders treated the bona vacantia funds as ‘free money’ and a ‘slush fund’

The monarch’s private estate the Duchy of Lancaster has long collected assets owned by people who died in its jurisdiction and, in the past decade, has collected more than £60million

A Guardian analysis suggests the 2020 policy gave the duchy licence to spend bona vacantia on as much as half of its massive property portfolio

A Guardian analysis suggests the 2020 policy gave the duchy licence to spend bona vacantia on as much as half of its massive property portfolio

The practice is said to help make rental properties more profitable, and in turn benefits the king, who in his first annual pay out since inheriting the estate from the Queen received £26million from the duchy.

The 2020 policy acknowledges that spending the money in this way could result in an ‘incidental’ benefit to the king’s private income.

It adds: ‘The primary intention of the expenditure must be the preservation and protection of the fabric of the property and any benefit to the privy purse [the king’s private income] is incidental to that purpose.’

A Duchy of Lancaster spokesperson said of the bona vacantia funds: ‘The balance is allocated between the Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund, the Duke of Lancaster Housing Trust and Jubilee Trust, three charities set up by The late Queen.

‘These charities were established after Queen Elizabeth decided that bona vacantia income should no longer benefit the Privy Purse.

‘On accession to the throne, His Majesty The King reaffirmed that money from bona vacantia should not benefit the Privy Purse, but should be used primarily to support local communities, protect the sustainability and biodiversity of the land and preserve public and historic properties across the Duchy of Lancaster estates.

‘This includes the restoration and repair of qualifying buildings in order to protect and preserve them for future generations.’



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