Meet the world’s largest landowners topped by the British royal family

by Rhoda Wilson, Expose News:

The British Royal Family, headed by newly crowned King Charles III, owns 6.6 billion acres of land worldwide. That’s more than 37 times as much as the global runner-up, the Catholic Church. Most of the top 25 largest private landowners are Australian cattle farms, but they’re outdone by the Inuit of Canada.

The following are excerpts from the article ‘What do King Charles III, the Pope, and Canadian Inuit have in common?’ written by Frank Jacobs and published by Big Think.

new report by Madison Trust lists the world’s largest private landowners.

The Australian Agricultural Company (“AA Co”), Australia’s oldest and largest farming conglomerate which is beef focused, manages 17.3 million acres, which is about 1% of Australia’s entire land mass.  AA Co, the 7th-largest private landowner in the world, is now majority-owned by UK billionaire Joe Lewis, who grew his stake in the company to more than 50% in September 2022. Lewis, who is the 39th-richest person in Britain, is also the majority owner of soccer club Tottenham Hotspur.

Lewis can’t claim to own the world’s largest farm, however. That distinction goes to the Mudanjiang City Mega Farm in northwestern China, close to the Russian border. Its 22.2 million acres mean it’s slightly bigger than Maine, and almost as big as Austria.

Still, Lewis is not the largest private landowner in Australia. That prize goes to mining magnate Gina Rinehart, who owns large chunks of both her own country and the US. Rinehart is Australia’s wealthiest person, and in 2012 was the world’s richest woman (now merely the 9th richest, with a net worth of $23.5 billion). In all, she owns just under 24 million acres of land. That’s a larger area than Indiana or Portugal.

Still, that’s a far cry from the lands held collectively by the Inuit People of Nunavut, Canada’s largest and northernmost territory. In the 1990s, the Canadian government granted large parts of the territory to the locals via the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement of 1993. This amounted to 87.5 million acres (about 136,720 sq mi, or 354,000 sq km), which is about halfway between the sizes of New Mexico and Montana, or roughly one Germany. That makes them the third-largest private landowners in the world.

Another Inuit area ranks number five globally. This is land held collectively by the Native people in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) in the northern parts of Yukon and the Northwest Territories. At 22.5 million acres, those lands are slightly bigger than that Chinese mega-farm.

The Catholic Church is not just the largest single religious denomination on Earth, but also the second-largest private landowner in the world, thanks to the numerous churches, convents, abbeys, schools, and other types of real estate it owns all across the map. Estimates are that the church owns about 177 million acres of land globally.  That’s bigger than Texas, and twice the size of Germany.

Yet even that is small beer compared to the world’s largest private landowner, the holdings of which are more than 37 times larger than those of the Catholic Church. This is the British royal family, headed by King Charles III. The Windsors own more than 6.6 billion acres around the world. That’s more than three times the size of Brazil. It constitutes more than one-sixth of the planet’s land area.

The question of the Royal Family’s ownership is a bit abstract. As sovereign of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and several other countries in the Commonwealth (including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, to name the biggest ones), King Charles “technically” has ownership of the realms over which he rules, either entirely or in part. For example, about 89% of Canada is “crown land.”  This is however considered public land, distinct from the monarch’s private estate. Considering the percentages, there is bound to be some overlap between the Canadian territories counted as “owned” by King Charles, and those under the control of the Inuit.

There is, however, also something called the Crown Estate, a real estate portfolio in the UK that is theoretically owned by the British monarch, but not part of his private estate. Neither is it government property. The Crown Estate covers properties from the charmingly arcane to the blandly commercial:

  • Approximately 55% of the UK’s foreshore (beaches), but not in the Orkney and Shetland islands.
  • Virtually all of the UK’s territorial seabed (from mean low water to the 12-nautical-mile limit).
  • 241 commercial, residential, and office properties in central London, including the Apple store on Regent Street.
  • Full ownership of a shopping centre in Worcester, and a 50% stake in shopping centres in Oxford and Exeter. Plus, more than a dozen other retail and shopping venues.

Additionally, via the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall, the Royal Family has direct control over vast real estate holdings (and their incomes) throughout rural England and Wales, but also (via the Duchy of Lancaster) over the prestigious Savoy Hotel in London.

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