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According to WhoOwnsTheWorld.com, Queen Elizabeth II owns 6,600 million acres. They claim,

Largest five personal landowners on Earth
Queen Elizabeth II               6,600 million acres
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia    553 million acres
King Bhumibol of Thailand        126 million acres
King Mohammed IV of Morocco      113 million acres
Sultan Quaboos of Oman           76 million acres

All of these numbers seem superficial. Does the Queen really own that much land, even if only in a trivial legal sense? What power would she have over that land? The New Statesman corroborates this here, but I can't find any further explanation. It's quite possible the number comes from the New Statesman.

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    That very page says: "Her main holdings are Canada, the 2nd largest country on earth, with 2,467 million acres, Australia, the 7th largest country on earth with 1,900 million acres, the Papua New Guinea with 114 million acres, New Zealand with 66 million acres and the UK with 60 million acres." Under that definition, her ownership is meaningless. If she tried to cash in, there would certainly be a revolution. I fear this will quickly degenerate to quibbling over definitions to answer the question. – Oddthinking Apr 26 '13 at 4:39
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    @Oddthinking I think you're being needless pessimistic. All problems are vulnerable to miscommunication and this one is no different. If she owns the land, that must entitle her to some right, however not the right we'd typically assume when a layman hears own. Clearing that up shouldn't be reduced to quibbling. – Evan Carroll Apr 26 '13 at 4:46
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    It would perhaps be informative to discuss just how Crown lands in Canada differ from US National Forests and public lands administered by the BLM. I don't believe anyone would argue that President Obama actually 'owns" those lands due to his office. – jamesqf Jun 3 '15 at 23:20
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UPDATE: Thanks to @Ian, I re-read the original source more clearly and the exact claim is false. The 6.6 billion is too high. Almost all of the Queen's ownership of land is a purely technical one, in which she represents the governments of the country. However, if you accept the technicality of the Queen being the owner of government owned land, the Queen is still the largest landowner on Earth by a large margin, just not nearly the margin that article claims. See below for details.


In British commonwealth legal tradition, land owned by the state is called "Crown lands". It is nominally titled to 'the Crown' of that country, but that actually means the government. This is still the case, for example, in Canada, by far the largest of the Crown holdings, where about 89% of the land is crown land. Approximately 23% of Australia is Crown land.

Much crown land is used for government purposes. Some generates income from leasing it, but she doesn't actually receive this money personally. Legally speaking, the land is held by the government "in the name of the Crown", and it uses the income from the lands to actually operate the government.

For example (thanks to @Brian M. Hunt pointing this out): The Canadian Constitution (specifically, the Constitution Act of 1867) enumerates the rights given to the provinces and those kept by the federal government. One of the rights delegated to the provinces is:

Property and Civil Rights in the Province. (Section 92(13))

meaning that the provinces have the right to make laws regarding property rights.

Mostly, this ownership is a legal fiction meant to allow land ownership and transfers to continue to operate as it always has. It would require an act of the respective Parliaments to change the status quo, and no one has felt the need to do so in Canada.

However

The 6.6 billion acre number quoted in the article is too high, because it includes land that is not even technically owned by Queen Elizabeth II. For example, the article includes

Australia, the 7th largest country on earth with 1,900 million acres, the Papua New Guinea with 114 million acres, New Zealand with 66 million acres and the UK with 60 million acres.

The Queen does not own any of the land in Australia; though they still follow the Commonwealth land tenure laws, "The Crown" in Australian law is specifically defined as the governments of the state or territory, and not the person of the monarch, so none of that 1.9 billion acres belongs to The Queen. Similarly, most of the crown lands in the UK were ceded by George III in 1760, and are held in an independent public trust called The Crown Estate, and not owned by Queen Elizabeth II. In New Zealand, only a small portion of the Crown Lands are still held in the name of the monarch (about 8% or ~7 million acres). The situation is Papua New Guinea is complicated, but it appears that as much as 97% of the land is Customary Land, which is owned in the indigenous people of the country.

Overall, I would estimate that Her Majesty's purely technical holdings are probably closer to about 2.5 billion acres, most of which is Canada and Australia, but that still puts her 5 times higher than the next largest land owner. The actual amount of land she owns in any meaningful sense is much smaller.

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    As a matter of interest, the Canadian constitution, a document ratified by the Crown, grants legislative powers over land exclusively to the Canadian provinces (s.92(13)). These powers determine the rules governing interests in property, and essentially divest the Queen of what one would traditionally call "ownership", being an exclusive right to enjoyment. The complex history of the divesture of sovereign power dates to before and is somewhat codified in the Magna Carta (1215). – Brian M. Hunt Apr 26 '13 at 13:22
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    True, I probably could have included the Magna Carta as a reference :) – KutuluMike Apr 26 '13 at 14:27
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    What an excellent answer. +1 I was originally going to claim the whole question was ridiculous, but this answer proved it was wrong but not ridiculous by digging into the cold hard detail. – matt_black Apr 26 '13 at 23:09
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    In Britain and Canada also, like Australia, the monarch does not actually own Crown Land. If the monarchy were to be abolished, she would not retain any rights to it, and cannot now have any say in its use (over and above her normal figurehead/advisorial role that she plays in all legislative matters. Not really much of a case for ownership. – DJClayworth Sep 15 '14 at 22:50
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    Of course in English law land held by the Crown in demesne is quite different from land which the Crown in some sense "owns" (i.e. all the land). The Crown's interest in land held (of her) in fee simple is pretty minimal. – Francis Davey Sep 17 '14 at 20:06
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The Queen of England as for the rest of Monarchy own no such land. The Civil purse act of 1837 stripped all ownership rights away from the Monarch Queen Victoria and her heirs and successors in exchange for a Civil pension. This included all the Land Rights she owned as part of the Crown. Owning land is one thing in name, but the the economical benefits of that land such as rent, business income and sale value were transferred to the Exchequer in perpetuity. Therefore as one may wish to look at the magna carta or any other documents, the defining document as to who owns all the land in the Commonwealth is governed by by the following piece of legislation. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1837/2/pdfs/ukpga_18370002_en.pdf

  • In general a good answer. In fact the Queen does own some land privately and not because of her status as Queen, though it's a very small amount compared with the land controlled by governments she is nominally head of. If the monarchy were to be abolished – DJClayworth Sep 15 '14 at 23:01
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Michael's answer is largely correct, however there is one small technicality that changes the answer:

Michael's answer is now, as far as I know, as correct as we could hope to get.


No.

The Queen is not the same as The Crown, and the Crown does not own much of the land that it rules over.

An example taken from the official website of the British Monarchy

Q12. Does The Queen own Buckingham Palace?

A. Occupied Royal Palaces, such as Buckingham Palace, are not the private property of The Queen. They are occupied by the Sovereign and held in trust for future generations.

...

The Queen privately owns two properties, Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House, which are not publicly funded.

I'm also fairly sure that there are areas of the commonwealth which consider the Crown to be the institute, not the individual (I was researching this but since Michael's beaten me to the punch with Australia I'll not pursue it any further). Thus, while technically the British Crown might be the head of state for 6.6 Billion acres the Queen does not own most of it.

  • That web site is only talking about the ownership of UK land. In England, the crown ceded control of most of the crown lands to Parliament in 1760, including the Palace, and kept only a few private holdings. That does not necessarily affect the crown's holdings in other countries, and in Canada (where most of Her Majesty's huge ownership numbers come from), the reigning monarch is technically the legal owner of the land until someone does something to change it. – KutuluMike Apr 26 '13 at 14:33
  • @Michael I'll admit its not very clear-cut: as Oddthinking said we're just quibbling over definitions. I was actually trying to build an answer based on the fact that much of the land that once belonged to the Sovereign has been ceded to others. Thus the 6.6 billion figure is out of date since most of it is now only in the name of the Crown but owned by others. However trying to research this quickly became a quagmire since there are so many different lands with different rulings. Buckingham Palace is an example: its included in the 6.6 billion figure when it and most of the UK is not hers. – Ian Apr 26 '13 at 14:44
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    actually, I had misread the original article; I didn't notice how much non-crown land it was including in her holdings. I'll update my answer to accomodate. – KutuluMike Apr 26 '13 at 14:55
  • Ian. I bought property in Canada, and found that I was registered as a Tenant, not owner, this begs the question, who is the owner in the real sense of the word. I am not sure what "technically the legal owner" means, I am more concerned with who is the real owner – user26484 Jun 3 '15 at 19:11

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