CROWN LAND, in the United Kingdom, land belonging to the crown, the hereditary revenues of which were surrendered to parliament in the reign of George III.
In Anglo-Saxon times the property of the king consisted of (a) his private estate, (b) the demesne of the crown, comprising palaces, &c., and (c) rights over the folkland of the kingdom. By the time of the Norman Conquest the three became merged into the estate of the crown, that is, land annexed to the crown, held by the king as king. The king, also, ceased to hold as a private owner, but he had full power of disposal by grant of the crown lands, which were increased from time to time by confiscation, escheat, forfeiture, &c. The history of the crown lands to the reign of William III. was one of continuous alienation to favourites. Their wholesale distribution by William III. necessitated the intervention of parliament, and in the reign of Queen Anne an act was passed limiting the right of alienation of crown lands to a period of not more than thirty-one years or three lives. The revenue from the crown lands was also made to constitute part of the civil list. At the beginning of his reign George III. surrendered his interest in the crown lands in return for a fixed “civil list” (q.v.). The control and management of the crown lands is now regulated by the Crown Lands Act 1829 and various amending acts. Under these acts their management is entrusted to the commissioners of Woods, Forests and Land Revenues, who have certain statutory powers as to leasing, selling, exchanging, &c.
In theory, also, state lands in the British colonies are supposed to be vested in the crown, and they are called crown lands; actually, however, the various colonial legislatures have full control over them and power of disposal. The term “crown-lands,” in Austria, is applied to the various provinces into which that country is divided. (See Austria.)
- The duchy of Lancaster, which was the private property of Henry IV. before he ascended the throne, was assured to him and his heirs by a special act of parliament. In the first year of Henry VII. it was united to the crown, but as a separate property.