Queen’s unlived-in home on Sandringham estate haunted by scandalous great-uncle

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The secrets of one of Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite homes will be delved into in a new Channel 5 documentary on Saturday. ‘Sandringham: Secrets of the Royal Palaces’ will look into the history of the Norfolk estate, which has provided the backdrop for the Royal Family’s Christmas celebrations since the Eighties. It is also where the late Prince Philip chose to spend his retirement; spent many of his later years at Wood Farm, a modest cottage on the grounds of the estate, painting and relaxing. 

The Queen’s emotional ties to Sandringham date back to her grandfather and great-grandfather, who both loved the country retreat. 

Her Majesty pays tribute to her father King George VI, who died at Sandringham House in 1952, by spending the anniversary of his death on the estate. 

While the Queen regularly visits the beloved royal residence, there is one home on the vast estate that she has never lived in. 

York Cottage – sometimes referred to as ‘The Bachelor’s Cottage’ – is a house situated within the grounds of the estate. 

While the exact year that the house was built is unclear, in 1893, it was given as a wedding gift by King Edward VII (then The Prince of Wales) to his son and new daughter-in-law the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary). 

Before this, the property had been lived in by Prince Albert Victor, the eldest son of Edward VII, until his death in 1892 from influenza.

And it is this controversial prince that supposedly haunts the halls of the royal home. 

Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale was born on January 8, 1864 at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor.

He was the eldest son of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra and a favourite grandson of Queen Victoria.

The Queen’s great-uncle was a controversial figure. He was once a key suspect in the Jack the Ripper murders and was also thought to be involved in the Cleveland Street Scandal of 1889, which saw an alleged government cover-up after a male brothel in London was discovered by police. 

The government was accused of covering up the scandal to protect the names of aristocratic and other prominent patrons.

It came amid swirling rumours that Albert – also known as ‘Eddy’ – was the Whitechapel killer and there were two theories to support the suspicion. 

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The first theory was that the Prince had contracted syphilis from a prostitute in the West Indies which made him go on a murderous, vengeful rampage as the disease spread to his brain, turning him mad.

The second theory follows the idea that Albert fell in love, had a child with and secretly married a Catholic girl in Whitechapel. 

The story goes that this was an undesirable match and the killings in the East End were the work of agents of the Royal Family who murdered anyone who had knowledge of the Prince’s secret marriage or child.

However, it has been widely discredited that Albert was the serial killer as the Prince was 500 miles away from London with his grandmother, Queen Victoria, in Balmoral at the time of some of Jack the Ripper’s attacks. 

But Albert’s life was still riddled with rumours – the Prince’s intellect, sexuality and mental health have been the subject of speculation. 

Less than a week after his 28th birthday, in 1892, Prince Albert Victor died at Sandringham House, surrounded by his family. 

It is said that the Prince’s ghost can still be seen at York Cottage.

The year before his death, it had been arranged that Albert would marry Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary). 

In December 1891, he proposed to Mary and the wedding was set for February 1892. 

The following year, Mary became engaged to Albert Victor’s only surviving brother, George, who subsequently became king. 

George V and Mary set up their family home at York Cottage and five of their six children were born there, including the future Queen’s father, King George VI. 

Having spent many decades in the Royal Navy, George V preferred to lead a simpler life and expressed a deep love for York Cottage. 

According to reports, he once said the house resembled “three merrie England pubs joined together.”

Today, the cottage is used as the estate office for Sandringham and acts as accommodation for employees. 

No current royals in residence, but a past prince may have stayed behind.

‘Sandringham: Secrets of the Royal Palaces’ will air on Channel 5 at 7pm on Saturday.

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