IT’S a strange beast, the Duchy of Lancaster.

Strange not least in that much of its property (a third of its total estate, the largest of its holdings in 11 counties) is in Yorkshire. Most of the Heartbeat village of Goathland, quintessentially Yorkshire, belongs to the Duchy. It forms the northern extremity of around 18,000 Duchy acres centred on Pickering. In 1975, the Queen lunched there, in the eponymous castle, with 76 tenant farmers.

The Lancaster connection dates from 1296 when Henry III conferred lands originally appropriated by the Conqueror to his younger son, who was simultaneously created Earl of Lancaster. Following a battle, in Boroughbridge in 1322, the then king, Edward II, seized the estate, but ownership subsequently swung backwards and forwards until, in 1399, it came to rest with the Crown when the abdication of Richard II brought the Duke of Lancaster to the throne as Henry IV.

Since 1413, the estate has had the peculiar governance of today. The monarch cannot touch its assets but receives its profits, on which our present Queen has voluntarily paid tax since 1994.

Was the Queen aware of the Duchy’s offshore dealings, legal but leaving a bad taste in the mouth? There might be a message in whether, in the wake of the revelations, the Duchy’s management changes.

ASTOUNDING, isn’t it, that our MPs, roughly half of whom at any one time are charged with governing us, should need a code of conduct on how to behave towards members of the opposite sex?

Most, let’s face it, are men. And might there not be an issue wider than inappropriate sexual advances here? Can we be sure that those who treat women not as equal human beings but objects for their personal gratification do not also, in different ways, disrespect certain other members, or sections, of society?

I blame their parents.

IMPOSSIBLE not to sympathise with the residents of Barmpton and Skerningham, battling building proposals which will eat away their Darlington-fringe countryside.

I offer some sage words from John Betjeman.

They were provoked, in 1963, by the urbanisation of Middlesex, which Betjeman foresaw spreading nationwide: “Probably there is no turning back, and for that reason every acre where there is still quiet and the smell of grass and the sound of brooks becomes more precious and essential for our recreation.”

Let’s hope that message is heard, and heeded, where it needs to be.

NOW it’s official. A short while back I lamented here mankind’s “devilish” habit of adapting inventions for warfare.

Flight was one example, but for the latest I named cyber attacks. These are now to be officially classed as war by the EU. The significance is that this creates a right to respond with conventional weapons.

The war poet Siegfried Sassoon despaired at “our delirium of invention”.

With Remembrance Day coming up it’s worth recalling his plea, made between the two world wars, for us to act so “that we some dawnlit destiny may behold”.