Who is the world’s largest landowner?

The inhabitable world, in its entirety, is 36 billion acres, meaning if it were divided up evenly every human on the planet would receive roughly 4.5 acres. Except, of course, it doesn’t work like that. 

From powerful rulers to farmers and Inuit civilizations, these are the people with the largest privately owned land supplies in the world, according to research conducted by Madison Trust. 

world's largest landowner
(Photo by Tim Rooke – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

He might have only ascended to the throne last year, but along with all the pageantry and titles that King Charles III received upon his coronation, he also became the world’s largest landowner. 

The British royal family, of which Charles is now the head, owns an eye-watering 6,600,000,000 acres of land. That is ⅙ of the world’s total surface. This number is quite so massive because King Charles is head of the Commonwealth, and therefore the technical owner of many Commonwealth lands, including the bulk of giant countries such as Canada and Australia, though the definition of “own” is, in this particular case, quite murky. 

Also confusing is the fact that included in the royal family’s “land” is rather a lot of seabed. The Crown Estate – as it is called – owns “virtually all the seabed around the UK out to 12 nautical miles”, according to the UK government website (the territorial sea limit). In total, the entire island of Great Britain makes up less than 1% of the Royal Family’s land.

world's largest landowner
Pope Francis (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Another powerful man who is head of an ancient institution is number two on this list. Unlike the royal family, the papacy is not a hereditary title, but as the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis is currently the world’s second-largest private landowner. 

With a miserly total of just 177,000,000 acres, Pope Francis is considerably behind King Charles, but still has more than double third place. Most of the Catholic Church’s land consists of churches and schools, as well as private properties, but they also own farms, predominantly in Italy.  

The Inuit People of Nunavut, in northern Canada, are third on the list. Nunavut translates to “Our Land” in Inuktitut, and the territory – Canada’s most northernmost and newest – was legally given to the Inuit community by the Canadian government in 1993. It measures 87,500,000 acres – bigger than the whole of Vietnam.

world's largest landowner
An Eskimo in Pelly Bay, Nunavut, Canada, circa 1965. (Photo by Authenticated News/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

The fourth largest global landowner is an Australian woman called Gina Rinehart. As well as owning 23,900,000 acres of land, Rinehart is the richest person in Australia. She took over the mining company Hancock Prospecting from her father in 1992, when it was not doing nearly as well. She more than turned the company’s fortunes around, and was, at one point, the world’s richest woman. The land she owns is split between Australia and the United States.

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Another Inuit group in Canada is fifth on the list. The Inuvialuit People of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region own just under 22,500,000 acres, and have done since 1984. It is located in Canada’s Northwestern Territories.

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