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How the monarchy cashes in on our seabed

By Guy Standing

19 Jul 2023 · 11 min read

informed Summary

  1. The sea, seabed, and seashore have historically been considered part of the commons, belonging to everyone equally and not as state or private property. This concept was established in ancient Rome and carried forward in the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest of 1217.

Ever since ancient Rome, the sea, seabed and seashore have been accepted as part of the commons—res communes omnium—belonging to everybody equally, and inalienable as state or private property. The commons as a distinct form of property was taken forward in Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest of 1217, the twin bedrocks of common law and all democracies.

A commons depends on the “sovereign”—in the UK’s case, the monarchy—acting as steward or trustee, with responsibility for preserving it for generations to come. For more than 650 years, following a ruling by King Edward I in 1299, the monarchy accepted this positive duty, known as the Public Trust Doctrine.

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