One’s sanctuaries! All about Queen Elizabeth’s many royal residences

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The queen will now return to Windsor only in early October and will commute to Buckingham Palace for limited official engagements. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
The queen will now return to Windsor only in early October and will commute to Buckingham Palace for limited official engagements. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

If there’s one thing the queen can take out of lockdown it’s that it has been a blessing for her 72-year marriage.

The pandemic has given her and husband Prince Philip the chance to spend quality time together – a luxury in her busy life. And they intend to continue to take things a little easier side by side now that the queen is easing back into royal life.

The couple will leave the highland grandeur of Balmoral, their traditional summer retreat in Scotland, three weeks early for Wood Farm, Philip’s permanent residence since his retirement in 2017, on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.

The move marks a change in tradition for the 94-year-old monarch, who normally heads straight to Windsor Castle from Balmoral to resume her work duties.

The queen will now return to Windsor only in early October and will commute to Buckingham Palace for limited official engagements.

Apparently the change of plan came about because The Firm’s first couple have been enjoying their time together so much during lockdown. “It’s rather sweet,” one royal family insider says.

Queen and Philip
The couple will leave the highland grandeur of Balmoral, their traditional summer retreat in Scotland, three weeks early for Wood Farm. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Palace officials want to create a sort of “bubble” for Her Majesty and a safe way for her and Philip (99) to travel between the residences so they can continue to see each other more often.

Reports say the monarch may spend up to two weeks “privately” a month at Wood Farm, which, while smaller and less lavishly furnished compared to the splendour of her other residences, is cosy with open fireplaces.

Philip loves the red-brick five-bedroom cottage and enjoys reading, gardening and going for walks. Before Covid-19 the queen would visit him occasionally in-between her duties – now she’ll be bunking with him full time for a while.

The queen has several places she calls home, of course. Here’s a look at the main royal residences in Her Majesty’s property portfolio.

WINDSOR CASTLE

The oldest royal residence is a former fortress and is by far the queen’s favourite place to be when she isn’t on holiday.

Where is it? It’s located in the town of Windsor, Berkshire, about 38 km west of London.

How big is it? After centuries of additions and alterations, the castle has approximately 1 000 rooms and occupies 13 acres of land.

What is it used for? Traditionally the queen would stay at Buckingham Palace in London during her working week and go to Windsor Castle, her official “country retreat”, on weekends.

Over lockdown in the UK, she was based here full time, isolating carefully as she falls into a high-risk category because of her impressive age.

Windsor
Windsor Castle's East Terrace Garden. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Windsor is where she traditionally entertains visiting monarchs or presidents. It’s also where various departments of the royal household are based. The ancient Round Tower houses the royal archives and the royal photograph collection.

Windsor Castle is a major tourist attraction and parts of the castle are open to the public, including the state apartments, St George’s Chapel which has hosted many a royal wedding, and Queen Mary’s famous doll house.

BALMORAL ESTATE

This is the queen’s beloved Scottish retreat where she holidays every summer.

Where is it? It’s situated near the sleepy village of Crathie in Aberdeenshire and is surrounded by glens, lochs and mountains. 

How big is it? The 52-bedroom home is situated on over 50 000 acres of land and is estimated to be worth a cool £155 million (about R3,3 billion).

What is it used for? Scotland is one of the queen’s favourite places and she adores going to Balmoral, which has been in the royal family since 1852 when Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert bought it.

The estate itself is a working one and includes grouse moors, forestry and farmland, as well as managed herds of deer, highland cattle and ponies.

Balmoral Castle from the walled rose garden.
Balmoral Castle from the walled rose garden. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

When she’s there Her Majesty likes to horse ride, go on walks and organise traditional grouse hunts, often with other members of the royal family who she invites to visit.

“It’s the most beautiful place on Earth,” the queen’s granddaughter Princess Eugenie told ITV’s Our Queen at Ninety documentary. “I think Granny is the most happy there. Walks, picnics, dogs – a lot of dogs – and people coming in and out all the time. It’s a lovely base for Granny and Grandpa, for us to come and see them up there, where you just have room to breathe and run.”

BUCKINGHAM PALACE

The granddaddy of the queen’s residences, it’s the official residential and administrative headquarters of the royal family.

Where is it? In London’s Westminster borough, one of the city’s most expensive areas. How big is it? It boasts 775 rooms and the biggest private garden in the capital.

What is it used for? The queen traditionally only stayed at Buckingham Palace during the working week. Since the pandemic she has not returned to London and according to insiders she’s now set to commute for “essential” work engagements from Windsor. In addition to being the administrative headquarters of The Firm, several members of the royal family have apartments and offices there, such as Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Princess Anne.Built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham, the palace was initially just a townhouse. However, in 1761, King George II purchased the residence for his wife, Queen Charlotte.

In the 20th century the three wings were constructed around the courtyard, and the famous balcony – where the royal family gathers for special occasions – was added.

A general view of Buckingham Palace.
A general view of Buckingham Palace. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

SANDRINGHAM ESTATE

This is the much-loved country retreat of the royal family. It’s also where the monarch is now set to spend more time with Prince Philip.

Where is it? It’s located in Norfolk, just over 160 km north of London.

How big is it? The estate covers 20 000 acres of land and Sandringham House, the private home of the queen, is nestled in 60 acres of formal gardens.

What is it used for? Every year the queen traditionally invites her family to celebrate Christmas with her at Sandringham House – or “the big house” as it’s known.

It holds a special place in her heart as both her father, King George VI, and her grandfather, King George V, died there. The estate is used for royal shooting parties and it’s a prolific provider of organic crops. Sandringham is one of the UK’s 40 growers of blackcurrants, used in the production of the drink Ribena.

This is the much-loved country retreat of the roya
This is the much-loved country retreat of the royal family. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

King George V was especially fond of the estate. “Dear old Sandringham,” he once said. “The place I love better than anywhere else in the world.”

Sources: dailymail.co.uk, express.co.uk, royal.co.uk, hellomagazine.com, womanandhome.com