Let them have Poundbury!
Land, property and pastoralism
in Running the Family Firm
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This chapter focuses on an ethnographic analysis of Poundbury, a 400-acre urban extension to the town of Dorchester in Dorset, England, built on Duchy of Cornwall land using the architectural principles set out by Prince Charles in his book A Vision of Britain (1989). Charles’s vision fundamentally rejects modernism, and Poundbury regenerates conservative, pastoral and neoclassical architectural styles. However, the chapter argues that Charles’s interest in town planning is distinctly politicised, and he brazenly links architectural trends to social and cultural figurations. Indeed, his vision of Britain seems to be concerned not only with the technicalities of architecture but also with the management of the citizens populating it. The chapter title, a play on Marie Antoinette’s (in)famous saying ‘let them eat cake’, illustrates the ways in which Poundbury (re)creates Charles’s version of a fantasy past mired by privilege.

Using ethnographic data from my visit to Poundbury in July 2017, this chapter argues that the town stages a conservative, nostalgic understanding of monarchy based on relations of feudalism, imperialism, colonialism, pastoralism, pre-industrialisation, anti-urbanisation and classed, raced and gendered hierarchies. Simultaneously, Poundbury demonstrates how the Firm engages with capitalist wealth creation, as the Duchy of Cornwall is described in terms associated with corporate capital, particularly rentier capitalism. Charles and Poundbury can be interpreted as a microcosm of the Firm as described in this book: an anachronistic institution utilising contemporary media technologies, socio-political shifts and forms of capital accumulation; yet not willing to forgo historical privileges.

Running the Family Firm

How the monarchy manages its image and our money

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