King urged against transforming royal palaces into tourist ‘shells’

A Royal Grand Design: King Charles restores Dumfries House

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King Charles III is reportedly “keen” to open up some royal residences to the public which royal experts claim will make the Firm more “open” and “sustainable”. But a new poll of Express.co.uk readers has found little support for the idea, with readers arguing they should remain private but extend their opening hours for visitors.

The King is said to be looking to open up more Royal residences including Windsor Castle and Balmoral, to make them more accessible and generate income from tourists.

Discussing His Majesty’s plans, Daily Mirror Royal Editor Russell Myers told True Royalty’s The Royal Beat programme last month: “Charles is very keen about opening more of the palaces, certainly the ones that aren’t being used.”

He explained: “Windsor Castle would probably be one of them and would be opened more. He has plans to make Balmoral some sort of museum and certainly to bring in more money, to make it more sustainable for the Royal Family and for the country.”

Royal expert and author Wesley Kerr claimed that the King could be making the move to create a more “open Monarchy”. He said: “I think there’s going to be far more emphasis on that, just as [Charles] always meets people on engagements. The Queen probably didn’t do that towards the end of her reign, so I think there’s just much more emphasis on it being a public and open Monarchy.”

In a poll that ran from 2pm on Tuesday, November 29 to 8am on Monday, December 5, Express.co.uk asked readers: “What do you think should happen to the royal estates?”

Overall, 1,094 readers responded with the most popular answer being that the royal estates should “remain private”, receiving 49 percent (535 people) of votes.

Whereas, 45 percent (493 people) answered that they should become “museums” and four percent (40 people) said they should be turned into “golf courses”. A further two percent (26 people) said they did not know.

In the comments below the accompanying article, dozens of readers shared their thoughts on the future of royal residences.

Many readers commented in favour of the royal estates remaining private with the public permitted to visit for tours of State Rooms and gardens throughout the year.

Username englishproud said: “Properties of the Crown used exclusively as private residences should remain such. Regarding others which currently are occasionally opened for public tours could, if the King wishes increase hours but never under any circumstances be sold to public ownership. The Crown should always retain complete control.”

Username Rel said: “Leave them as residences and have more opening times like a lot of stately homes. The best stately homes are those that are still lived in the rest become interesting and lovely shells. As for the private residences that would be up to the individual again, if they are already open, increase the amount of time they are opened.”

And username TheMadTrapper wrote: “The Royal Family are merely custodians of the estates, they really belong to the British people. They are in the main open to the public to wander around and take in the history, and yes the public pay for that privilege, but if you sell them off it’s like selling the family silver, it can never be replaced.”

Royal expert and editor-in-chief at Majesty Magazine Ingrid Seward said that estates could become popular museums but that the Royal Family should continue to live in the private areas of residences.

She said: “People, especially visiting from abroad, love the idea that they’re going into a palace or a castle where the Queen or somebody is actually living – although you don’t see them – so that is quite important and there should be a presence there.”

Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, welcomes the public throughout the year to some areas of the buildings and grounds, while Balmoral has more restrictive seasonal opening.

Since the King and his Queen Consort Camilla have chosen to continue residing at Clarence House in central London there is potential for tourism expansion at Buckingham Palace which already attracts around 500,000 visitors annually to its State Rooms and gardens. 

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Some readers argued that the estates could have alternative uses, with username Lelly writing: “Build houses on them, fix the homeless problem and make accommodation affordable again.”

Username ​​Didius wrote: “Homes for veterans and domestic abuse victims with mental health services!”

Similarly, username BrueTrit added: “Turn them into comfortable homes for military veterans.”

While username ninemadcats said: “Lead from the front and build solar and wind farms on the estates.”

The King is in favour of heritage-led regeneration and is keen to prevent stately homes from becoming failed golf courses. ITV documentary Royal Grand Design shared the then Prince of Wales’ journey of saving Dumfries House in Ayrshire, Scotland.

He said: “I knew if we hadn’t stepped in and saved it, somebody would have bought it and said they had a great idea, you know, for golf courses and things, and it would never have worked, so it would have joined the list of yet more derelict country houses.”

He added: “I hope there will be another project fairly soon which could be quite large. I haven’t given up yet. Watch this space, as they say.”

The Sun’s Royal Editor Matt Wilkinson told True Royalty that he expects Charles to “mothball” his private residence in Gloucestershire, Highgrove House. He explained: “Highgrove will become like Dumfries House, where it is used as one of his projects.”

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