The Church of England is investigating a royal endowment Queen Anne set up for poor priests over its links to the slave trade.
Queen Anne’s Bounty was a fund established by the monarch in 1704 to support clergymen in buying land from which they could generate income.
Money from the bounty was invested in annuities in the South Sea Company, which transported thousands of slaves from Africa to South America. The endowment has since grown into the Church’s modern-day investment fund and is now worth £9.2billion.
It is overseen by the Church Commissioners for England, who manage property assets and arranges the payment of stipends to clergy.
This body is now investigating the endowment of Queen Anne, who herself held more than a fifth of the South Sea Company’s stock.
The commissioners’ annual report, published yesterday, stated: "Longe stablished endowment funds may give rise to a reputational risk linked to the possibility of their original source, or early investment of funds, having slave trade connections.
"This could be the case for the original Queen Anne’s Bounty and Ecclesiastical Commissioners’ funds."
The Commissioners’ report outlined this risk, alongside priorities of the body, including "monitoring societal attitudes and proactive consideration of social justice issues".
Lambeth Palace officials have not said what could happen to the wealth if links to slavery were established. A spokesman to the Church Commissioners for England said: "Like many organisations, we are looking into our past and have commissioned external research into the origins of our predecessor bodies, Queen Anne’s Bounty and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
"We are doing this work of our own volition to better understand where our funding came from and to see if our predecessor bodies had links to or received profits from the historic transatlantic slave trade. That research is under way."