Ask almost anyone in the world, and they will tell you Britain’s King or Queen of England lives in Buckingham Palace.
Closer royal watchers might think of King Charles when they hear the word Highgrove, the Queen Mother when they hear Castle of Mey, and the late Queen Elizabeth when anyone mentions Balmoral. But after the Queen’s death on September 9, that has all changed.
So who gets what palace now?
Highgrove, part of the Duchy of Cornwall, now belongs to the newly minted Prince of Wales – William. The Castle of Mey now belongs to King Charles III.
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The fate of Balmoral is up for speculation, in what the British tabloids are calling a “Game of Homes” – what will happen to more than 30 royal residences now that Charles the Moderniser is King?
King Charles has said he wants to slim down the monarchy, but does that include their homes?
There would be nothing new in this. The monarch’s role has always included dishing out palaces like your Gran dishes out $5 notes when you pop round for tea.
What homes does the King control?
The new King now has the run of Windsor, Sandringham, Balmoral, Wood Farm and Craigowan Lodge, which were used by his mother. He also has Kensington Palace, where some relatives live, and St James’ Palace, where Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie have lived, and where Princess Anne lives when she is in London.
It’s not clear if the princesses will retain their housing privileges when King Charles starts his royal slimming-down process.
Personally, King Charles also has Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate, Dumfries House in Scotland, Llwynywermod in Wales, and the famous Castle of Mey in Scotland, which was owned by his grandmother.
Grand designs – for royalty
It seems certain that Buckingham Palace will remain the official residence of the British monarch, but that doesn’t mean the King intends to spend a lot of time there.
It’s never been a popular home with the Windsors, but before her death, Queen Elizabeth put the royal seal on a £369 million modernisation project funded by the British taxpayers, according to Hello Magazine. It’s not due to be completed till 2027.
Unlike an episode of Grand Designs, however, King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort will not have to live in a caravan in the backyard while the lads knock down a couple of walls. As monarch, King Charles has about 30 other royal residences he can live in while the painters and decorators are in, including his current home, Clarence House, which is just down the Mall from Buckingham Palace.
So, what next?
The real question is: What will happen to all the other royal residences when the reno is finished and the King and Queen Consort move up the palace ladder to the top house?
It’s not clear if the disgraced Prince Andrew will get to stay living at the Crown’s pleasure in the 30-room Royal Lodge, at Windsor. He reportedly spent £7.5m of his own money doing up the Grade II listed building for Beatrice’s 18th birthday party, and UK paper The Sun says taxpayers would have to pay that back if he’s evicted.
In 2020, Andrew put his little NZ$45 million chalet in Switzerland on the market. It’s not clear if it sold or not – these sorts of places can take years to find a buyer. But if you’re worried about what will happen to him, he won’t end up homeless, living under Waterloo Bridge, like an ordinary person might if they lost their housing.
According to the BBC, it’s possible King Charles will open more of Buckingham Palace to the public tour programme and use the place as his pied-à-terre in the city during the week.
However, his beloved country house, Highgrove, is no longer his as it belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall, which belongs to the Prince of Wales, which means he’d have to pay his son rent if he wanted to stay there.
One wonders what the going rate on a Georgian mansion with nine bedrooms, six bathrooms and a 140-hectare garden is these days? King Charles is probably good for it, but why pay out when he has so many other options?
According to the Daily Mail, it has been suggested that King Charles will give Windsor to Prince William and Princess Catherine, as he’s not a fan of living under the Heathrow Airport flight path.
It’s likely he will spend more time at Sandringham. He had already taken over management of Sandringham in 2017 and is putting in an organic garden and giving the place a bit of a spruce-up.
The new Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Catherine, now live at Adelaide Cottage on the Windsor Estate. But they also have Anmer Hall, which was a wedding present from Queen Elizabeth, on the Sandringham Estate. It’s possible they will return both properties to the Crown in favour of having a whole castle to live in instead.
According to The Telegraph, King Charles is considering gifting Balmoral Castle to the nation in memory of his mother, but he will retain use of Birkhall.
However, it seems likely that the King and Queen Consort will not stay living at Clarence House. During a service for the late Queen Elizabeth last week, more than 100 members of the King’s Clarence House staff were given notice that they are likely to be made redundant. God save the King.