The British Royal Family, headed by newly crowned King Charles III, owns 6.6 billion acres of land worldwide. That’s more than 37 times as much as the global runner-up, the Catholic Church. Most of the top 25 largest private landowners are Australian cattle farms, but they’re outdone by the Inuit of Canada.
The Australian Agricultural Company (“AA Co”), Australia’s oldest and largest farming conglomerate which is beef focused, manages 17.3 million acres, which is about 1% of Australia’s entire land mass. AA Co, the 7th-largest private landowner in the world, is now majority-owned by UK billionaire Joe Lewis, who grew his stake in the company to more than 50% in September 2022. Lewis, who is the 39th-richest person in Britain, is also the majority owner of soccer club Tottenham Hotspur.
Lewis can’t claim to own the world’s largest farm, however. That distinction goes to the Mudanjiang City Mega Farm in northwestern China, close to the Russian border. Its 22.2 million acres mean it’s slightly bigger than Maine, and almost as big as Austria.
Still, Lewis is not the largest private landowner in Australia. That prize goes to mining magnate Gina Rinehart, who owns large chunks of both her own country and the US. Rinehart is Australia’s wealthiest person, and in 2012 was the world’s richest woman (now merely the 9th richest, with a net worth of $23.5 billion). In all, she owns just under 24 million acres of land. That’s a larger area than Indiana or Portugal.
Still, that’s a far cry from the lands held collectively by the Inuit People of Nunavut, Canada’s largest and northernmost territory. In the 1990s, the Canadian government granted large parts of the territory to the locals via the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement of 1993. This amounted to 87.5 million acres (about 136,720 sq mi, or 354,000 sq km), which is about halfway between the sizes of New Mexico and Montana, or roughly one Germany. That makes them the third-largest private landowners in the world.
Another Inuit area ranks number five globally. This is land held collectively by the Native people in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) in the northern parts of Yukon and the Northwest Territories. At 22.5 million acres, those lands are slightly bigger than that Chinese mega-farm.
The Catholic Church is not just the largest single religious denomination on Earth, but also the second-largest private landowner in the world, thanks to the numerous churches, convents, abbeys, schools, and other types of real estate it owns all across the map. Estimates are that the church owns about 177 million acres of land globally. That’s bigger than Texas, and twice the size of Germany.