Hungerford Rotary Club and the Loyal Toast

At all its meetings, Hungerford Rotary Club always uses the Loyal Toast “The Queen, Duke of Lancaster” rather than simply “The Queen”. Why is this; what is the history behind it?

For more on this topic, look at The Hungerford Virtual Museum
(, under Themes / Loyal Toast.

When King William I invaded England in 1066, he rapidly established his authority over his new Kingdom by distributing the various manors and lands between his many Norman relatives and close friends.
In 1108, Hungerford was in the ownership of a distant relative of King William I - Robert de Beaumont, Count of Meulan. The manor of Hungerford remained in his family for several generations. Eventually, in 1232 it came into the hands of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who created a deer park on the east side of Hungerford (now Hungerford Park).
When Simon de Montfort was killed at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, King Henry III granted Simon's lands to the King’s younger son, Edmund. More land was added, and in 1267 the estate was formally granted as the "County, Honour and Castle of Lancaster". The House of Lancaster was established.
In 1351 King Edward III raised Lancashire into a county palatine, whereby its lord had autonomy from the rest of the Kingdom; whilst he swore allegiance to the King, he had the power to rule the county largely independently of the King. The Duchy of Lancaster became one of the biggest landed estates in the country.

At the same time, 6 March 1351, Edward III made Henry of Grosmont the First Duke of Lancaster. Henry of Grosmont (great-grandson of Henry III), married Isabel de Beaumont (a descendant of the de Beaumont family who had held Hungerford right back in 1108). Henry and Isabel had two daughters, Maud and Blanche, but importantly, no son. When Henry died in 1361, the Duke of Lancaster creation became extinct (with no son available to become a 2nd Duke of Lancaster). However, the vast Lancastrian estates did pass to his elder daughter, Maud.
Maud died childless the following year (10 April 1362), and the manor of Hungerford, along with the other Lancastrian estates, passed to her younger sister Blanche. Three years earlier, in 1359, Blanche had married (at Reading Abbey) John of Gaunt, the third (surviving) son of King Edward III. John of Gaunt (at the tender age of 22 years) thus became the owner of the massive inherited Lancastrian estates - which included Hungerford.

Later that year, on 13 November 1362, King Edward III (John of Gaunt's father) conferred the dukedom of Lancaster on John of Gaunt "and the heirs male of his body lawfully begotten for ever". John of Gaunt was therefore the First Duke of Lancaster of the second creation. He was one of the richest and most powerful men in the country.
When Edward III died in 1377, the crown passed to his grandson, a 10-year old boy, who became King Richard II. During Richard II's reign (1377-1399), John of Gaunt virtually ran the country as Protector.
Tradition has it that it was John of Gaunt who granted the rights of free fishing and the rights of the market and trade to the people of Hungerford, freeing them from paying taxes to the Duchy of Lancaster.

The problem is that we do not have a Charter confirming this liberty. The Duchy of Lancaster's copy was said to have been lost when the Savoy Palace was destroyed in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. Hungerford's own copy was lost or stolen around 1573 (during the reign of Elizabeth I).
In 1573, the Duchy of Lancaster was in dispute with the people of Hungerford. The Duchy wanted us to pay our taxes – but Hungerford said John of Gaunt had granted liberty. Queen Elizabeth I herself was involved as things came to a head.
In 1612, after about 40 more years of dispute with the Duchy, and at a time when the then King James I was urgently seeking any money he could get his hands on, the Manor of Hungerford was sold by James I to two London men (for £285), John Eldred and William Whitmore. Over the next five years there were a number of further transactions.
Finally, on 16 June, 1617, the Manor of Hungerford was conveyed to Ralph Mackerell (Constable), and 13 other local men 'in trust for the inhabitants'. These 14 men thus became the first feoffees or trustees of the Town and Manor of Hungerford.

Hungerford was finally and legally independent of the Duchy of Lancaster. However, it continued to remember and support the Lancastrian cause, acknowledging its important historic connection with John of Gaunt.
This has explained the connection of Hungerford with John of Gaunt and the Duchy of Lancaster – and suggested why we might indeed toast "the Duke of Lancaster".
But why is the Loyal Toast "The Queen, Duke of Lancaster"?
When John of Gaunt died on 4 February 1399, his son Henry Bolingbroke became 2nd Duke of Lancaster. Later that same year, Henry usurped the throne of England from his cousin Richard II, ascending the throne as Henry IV. All of his peerages merged with the Crown.
The first act of King Henry IV was to declare that the Lancastrian inheritance be held separately from the other possessions of the Crown, and should descend to his male heirs.
This separation of identities was confirmed in 1461 by Edward IV when he incorporated the inheritance and the palatinate responsibilities under the title of the Duchy of Lancaster, and stipulated that it be held separate from other inheritances by him and his heirs, Kings of England. The Duchy of Lancaster continued to pass to the reigning monarch right into the 18th century.
In 1760 George III became King. All the Crown Estates were surrendered by the King in exchange for a regular annual allowance in the form of the Civil List. However, the historic separate identity of the Duchy of Lancaster preserved it in the hands of the King, and it has remained in the personal ownership of each reigning monarch since.

The Duchy of Lancaster is therefore primarily a landed inheritance belonging to the reigning sovereign. It is not the property of The Crown, but is instead the personal (inherited) property of the monarch - as it has been ever since 1399. The monarch is correctly styled "Duke of Lancaster", regardless of gender.
Hungerford Rotary Club will continue to use the Loyal Toast, "The Queen, the Duke of Lancaster" which is still widely said within the Duchy, and in Hungerford.

(Rotarian Hugh Pihlens Hungerford Virtual Museum)

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