The duchy has to comply with the UK employment and health and safety laws. It collects and pays VAT on its turnover. This compliance gives it the appearance of a public organisation, subject to the laws applicable to everyone else. At the same time, its ancient privileges enable it to function as a state within a state.
Last week I was invited to give evidence to the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) for its enquiry on citizens and public services. This is an important enquiry and has the opportunity to address some fundamental questions about the nature of our public services, and the Government's 'reform' and public expenditure programmes.
Following the awful murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich last week, the political securocrats who claim to represent the interests of the British intelligence services have swung into action, demanding yet further surveillance powers for MI5 and MI6 "in order to prevent future Woolwich-style attacks".
The outrage at such severe abuses mirrors responses to human trafficking and 'modern day slavery', as all agree that exploitation should not have a place in our supply chains. But whether low pay or excessive hours, bonded labour or human trafficking, the common thread is profits trumping rights and talk in place of action.
What has gone wrong? Why can't we get our act together? Although a number of factors contribute to this quagmire, it is the misuse and abuse of three attributes of state governance that is the root cause of many of the problems we face today - politics, democracy, and accountability are the most widely misunderstood words in the country.
What next for the great British Broadcasting Corporation? I predict that this car crash will play out, more heads will roll and the internal and external torrent of frenzied accusations will inevitably dry to a trickle. But I think it's important to remember that the BBC has produced excellent journalism, and in the scheme of things, a couple of (albeit very) bad decisions on Newsnight don't constitute the abolishment of the programme or of the BBC's entire 90-year-old reputation.