The King plans to make Buckingham Palace a home fit for a King and has ruled out any major slimming down of the monarchy’s vast property empire. He has vowed to push ahead with plans to move in above the shop when a £369 million refurbishment culminating in an upgrade to the monarch’s apartments on the north side of the building is completed in four years’ time.
His determination to press ahead with the plans comes despite scepticism from some royal insiders who believe he and Queen Camilla would like their London home to remain at nearby Clarence House.
It also comes despite predictions that his efforts to move Prince Andrew out of his Royal Lodge home and give him the keys to Harry and Meghan’s house at Windsor heralds a much wider plan to rationalise the number of his family’s residences and cut the costs of the monarchy.
The Daily Express understands the proposed house move is limited to resolving Andrew’s financial problems created by a cut to his allowance from the King after his fall from grace, along with a bit of score-settling with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex after their repeated attacks on the Firm.
There will be no handing over to the nation of Balmoral or turning Buckingham Palace into a mainly tourist attraction despite reports that these ideas were being explored when the new King acceded to the throne last September.
The King does want to see Balmoral, a residence owned privately by the reigning monarch, and other official residences including Buckingham Palace, opened up more to the public but is still trying to work out how to do that.
But for now his focus is on Andrew, whose 30-room, seven-bedroom home, Royal Lodge, at Windsor is now said to be so dilapidated it needs major renovation work that the King believes his brother may not be able to afford.
The £30 million house’s extensive exterior, repainted from Windsor Pink to white on Andrew’s instructions when he took over the Queen Mother’s former country home after her death in 2002, needs a new roof and its impressive frontage requires repointing and redecorating, according to insiders at Windsor. “Just the repainting will cost £1 million,” one source said.
Its 98 acre grounds, which include six cottages inhabited by former royal staff, are said to have become shabby once you get a little distance from the main house. A team of three gardeners who once kept the grounds pristine has now been reduced to one amid financial cutbacks brought in by Andrew since he was forced to step back from official duties amid a sex scandal and saw his income from the taxpayer and the monarch’s private financial support reduced dramatically.
The King has vowed he will not leave his brother “homeless or penniless” but is suggesting that Andrew 63, moves into Frogmore Cottage, the five-bedroom home on the Windsor estate he is in the process of evicting Prince Harry and Meghan from after deciding the California-based Duke and Duchess of Sussex no longer need it.
Some still think it may yet herald a wider game of royal Monopoly but wonder how many homes the Royal Family really need.
“They do look over-propertied,” said Ingrid Seward, royal biographer and editor of Majesty magazine. who believes Andrew has been in serious financial trouble but has almost certainly inherited a large sum from his late mother to lessen the burden.
Sitting at the top of the property pile, inevitably is the King, who moves between up to 11 homes like some medieval monarch on a royal progress shoring up support from the barons.
He has official residences at Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, Windsor Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, and Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland.
On top of those, he has Highgrove, his pride and joy in Gloucestershire which he has leased for life from the Duchy of Cornwall, the property empire he once controlled but has now passed to his son and heir Prince William.
At weekends these days the King can often be found at Sandringham, the monarch’s 20,000 acre estate in Norfolk which he is turning organic. There are spells when he is based at Birkhall, his home on the 50,000 acre Balmoral estate where the main house, the castle his mother retired to every summer, is now underused. The 74-year-old monarch also stays regularly at Dumfries House in Ayrshire and annually for a week or so at the Castle of Mey, both owned by trusts he created.
His wife Queen Camilla has use of all those as well as her own house, Raymill, at Lacock in Wiltshire, where she spends time winding down and entertaining her family.
There are many more at their family’s disposal. The monarch’s private estates at Sandringham and Balmoral and the taxpayer-funded Occupied Royal Palaces Estate, which is held in trust for the nation and includes Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, contain hundreds of properties.
For now the King’s London base remains Clarence House. The 19th century four-storey house, once earmarked as a future home for Prince Harry and whoever he married, stands next to St James’s Palace, the most senior royal palace in the capital and the formal home of the court.
Two miles away stands Kensington Palace, split between a charity-run tourist attraction and a highly secure royal residence for wider members of the family, what Edward VIII called the Aunt Heap. The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent all have apartments there, along with Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank and their son August, who live in Ivy Cottage when they are not in Portugal or using Harry and Meghan’s vacant home at Windsor.
Traditionally royal relatives paid peppercorn rents for their apartments but in the past two decades there has been a move to increase the payments nearer to commercial rates, although there is a still a discount to reflect the fact that properties within the security perimeter cannot be rented out to just anyone.
Among Kensington Palace’s residents officially at least are William and Kate, although they now rarely use their 21-room apartment, upgraded for them at a cost of £4.5 million to the taxpayer. The couple and their children have decamped with their children to four-bedroom Adelaide Cottage on the Windsor estate to avoid the goldfish bowl existence of living in the heart of London surrounded by distant relatives and staff. Next door to their apartment stands another empty 21-room flat which the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester left for something smaller in 2019.
William, who has publicly stated he wants to see an end to homelessness, has a second home with Kate at Anmer Hall, a 10-bedroom mansion they lease from the monarch’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk.
There is talk of them moving into Royal Lodge if Andrew is forced out but friends insist the couple and their children are happy in Adelaide Cottage.
William, 40, sits on top of his own property empire after inheriting the £1 billion Duchy of Cornwall estate from his father when the reign changed.
His father the King also presides over a separate property empire, the £620 million Duchy of Lancaster, both run as commercial enterprises. The two duchies between them provide the two men with annual profits of roughly £50 million divided almost equally, which funds most of the costs of the modern monarchy together with the £86 million that the monarchy receives from the taxpayer in the Sovereign Grant to fund the King’s official duties, and his family’s travel, and property maintenance.
The King, like the Queen before him, pays the Duchy of Lancaster money into the Privy Purse and uses it to fund some of the office and living costs of other members of the family who are less financially fortunate.
They all have their trust funds and private income from investments but running an office staffed by several people and representing the monarch all over the world requires cash.
Princess Anne and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence live at Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire, bought by the Queen for Anne and Captain Mark Phillips in 1976, Edward and Sophie lease Bagshot Park from the Crown Estate, an independent property empire owned by the monarch in name only and set up to earn money for the Government.
The Crown Estate also owns Royal Lodge, which Andrew rents on a 75-year lease, and the property empire has a long history of handing over or taking back property from the Royal Family in the Windsor area.
Palace officials refuse to say how much Andrew receives from the monarch to help pay his bills, including the cost of private security from a team of ex-police officers replacing Scotland Yard protection lost after he was forced to step down as a working royal.
Until 1993 he received a £249,000 Parliamentary Annuity but that year Queen Elizabeth agreed to start paying that and other grants to members of her family and since then Andrew’s payments are thought to have grown considerably.
Whether he will manage to be able to afford to stay at Royal Lodge remains to be seen. “Andrew really doesn’t want to go but the house needs major work on it and it’s not clear if he has the money to do it,” said one source.
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