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There’s only one thing the Duke of Cambridge wants for his 40th birthday next week: to leave the Big Smoke behind and move his entire brood to the wide open spaces of the shires — or Berkshire, to be precise. After months of speculation, it’s been confirmed that the Cambridges will be moving to the Windsor Estate this summer, taking up residence in the modest four-bedroom Adelaide Cottage, just a 10-minute walk from the Queen’s private apartments. The big move is said to have been triggered by William’s milestone birthday, as well as the fact that the Cambridges are keen to have more space for the kids — the family has been spotted happily frolicking in the bucolic Windsor grounds on weekends recently, with their pet Spaniel Orla in tow.
The move makes sense. According to royal correspondent Katie Nicholl, the couple aren’t “London people” and are fed up with the trafficky school run from their Kensington Palace home to Thomas’s Battersea, the school George and Charlotte will be leaving at the end of this term. They also feel they lack privacy at the palace, which has been dubbed the “royal commune” due to the fact that several other members of the family also rent apartments within it. As for their current country bolt hole, Anmer Hall in north Norfolk, it’s considered too far from royal HQ and Kate’s close-knit family to be of much use.
Her parents Carole and Michael Middleton live just a 45-minute drive from Windsor in the picturesque village of Bucklebury, close enough to help on the school run or pop over for cosy kitchen suppers. “That would definitely be a draw for Kate, given how close she is to her parents and how happy her childhood was growing up there,” says one well-placed source. Brother James and his wife Alizée Thevenet live in a £1.45m farmhouse on the outskirts of Bucklebury, while sister Pippa and her husband James and their two children will be close enough for weekend playdates at their £17 million Chelsea townhouse.
Moving west allows the couple to shift seamlessly between work and home, while also letting them maintain a greater separation between those two worlds — something that has long been considered vital to their happiness as a family. Then there’s the fact that they’d be so close to the Queen, who made Windsor Castle her permanent base earlier in the year, as well as other members of the family. Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank live at Frogmore Cottage, Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex are in Bagshot Park, and Princess Anne and Prince Charles are up the M4 in Gloucestershire. They would also be able to keep a watchful eye on Prince Andrew, who lives just round the corner at Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park.
Adelaide Cottage, nestled in the heart of Home Park, is one of the more humble properties on the Queen’s vast estate, but the ever practically-minded Cambridges are said to have chosen it due to its low-key nature and — most importantly — the fact that it’s ready to move into straight away (the family are adamant they want to be settled this summer, before the new school year starts). It was fully modernised in 2015, so unlike Frogmore Cottage, which Harry and Meghan controversially renovated using an estimated £2.4million of taxpayers’ money (which they later repaid), it won’t require a costly refurb — another big plus point for both William and Kate, who are said to be keen not to be a burden on the taxpayer.
Built in 1831 for Queen Adelaide, the wife of William IV, the house has been used as a “grace and favour” residence for royal friends over the last 60 years, and was once home to Group Captain Peter Townsend —who famously had an affair with the Queen’s late sister, Princess Margaret.
While the cottage itself is decidedly unflashy it does have some regal touches. It’s said the master bedroom features golden dolphins and ceiling rope decorations, recycled from a 19th-century royal yacht, while the house also boasts a marble Greco-Egyptian fireplace.
With seven gated entrances, it also offers the utmost privacy. With just four bedrooms, it is a considerable downsize from 10-bed Anmer Hall, but there will be plenty of space for the family of five as they won’t be having any live-in staff.
The cottage could be considered as something of a stepping stone property, as it’s understood that in time the whole family will move into “the big house”, as the Prince of Wales plans to spend most of his time at Buckingham Palace rather than Windsor Castle when he’s king. Meanwhile, Kensington Palace will remain the Cambridges’ London home, as well as housing their private and press offices, while they’ll still be making regular visits to their Norfolk retreat of Anmer, which one close friend described as the family’s “happy place”. It is said the Cambridges love it so much they even have plans to make it their permanent base once the children have left school.
Which school the couple choose to send their children to will be one of the most important decisions, and not one they’re taking lightly. “Our extensive network of spies tells us that over the course of the academic year, the Cambridges have been diligently doing their school research in the South-East,” says Teddy Wolstenholme, editorial director of of Talk Education and a former editor of the Tatler Schools Guide. For prep schools, the latest news on the grapevine is that all three children are set to start at nurturing co-ed Lambrook near Ascot in September, which both William and Kate visited earlier in the year. “There’s been a rush to join the parents’ association so they can all befriend Kate,” reveals a well-placed local source. The couple also looked around Elstree and Papplewick during their research. “One pupil at Papplewick was asked by Kate if he liked Harry Potter, as she said her son was a fan,” says Wolstenholme.
Marlborough is the odds-on favourite to educate them when they’re older — Kate was head girl there and on the couples’ recent tour to the Caribbean she told Jamaican politician and Old Marlburian Mark Golding: “I loved my time there.”
The co-ed school is said to appeal as the couple are keen to keep all their children together, though Wolstenholme cautions it may not be a shoo in as “Kate and William might prefer a school that offers more flexibility in terms of boarding”. Eton is also thought to be on their list. “While we don’t have any confirmed sightings of them visiting senior schools yet, Eton will be a strong contender for the princes,” says Wolstenholme. “It’s also walking distance from Windsor Castle, which would make the school run pretty seamless.”
The social set
While in the past the green welly brigade might have regarded this corner of Berkshire as horribly naff and not proper countryside, it now has its own thriving social scene, packed full of royals, aristos and A-list celebs. Carole and Michael Middleton set the trend back in the late Seventies, when they moved there before the birth of their eldest daughter in 1982, and the great and the good have followed suit. Amal and George Clooney have a £12 million mansion by the river in Sonning, while family friend Sir Elton John has a house in Old Windsor. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page are also local.
Meanwhile, socialite Sabine Getty and her husband Joseph are known for gathering a glamorous crowd for weekends at Wormsley, their estate in the Chilterns, where guests have ranged from Princess Beatrice to Charlotte Dellal. And having grown up nearby, Kate will also know all the key landed families in the area to look out for, such as the Oppenheimers at Waltham Place near Maidenhead, which they run as an organic biodynamic farm, and the Benyons at Englefield House, where Kate’s sister, Pippa, got married to James Matthews in 2017.
The area around Windsor offers the perfect middle ground between the Cambridges’ relatively cooped up London life – by now, eight-year-old George must be bouncing off the walls of Kensington Palace – and the rural wilderness around Anmer Hall. While in Norfolk the family have been known to enjoy relaxed pub lunches (they were once papped scoffing burgers in a local beer garden), and there are plenty of charming pubs in Berkshire where family Sunday lunches are a huge draw. The Middleton family has been known to frequent the Pot Kiln in Frilsham for years, but according to the locals the best food can be found at the Old Boot Inn in Stanford Dingley. As for upmarket dinner options, the couple are spoilt for choice when it comes to Michelin-starred spots, with the Roux family’s Waterside Inn and Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck at 15-minute drive away in Bray. There’s always fun to be had on the river, too, especially since Soho House pitched a safari tent in the grounds of the Oakley Court Hotel in Windsor, which is packed every weekend.
Kate will likely head to one of the hugely popular Coppa Clubs around the area for a mid-week exercise class. Local mums love paddleboarding from the Streatley-on-Thames branch, which also has its own yoga hut right on the river. William can get back into polo, too, with regular play-offs at Guards Polo Club and the Royal Berkshire Polo Club, while there are plenty of smart golf clubs around, with the pick of the bunch being Sunningdale and Wentworth.
Summers are likely to be spent at nearby Coworth Park, where the children can play tennis, swim and ride, while Kate relaxes in the spa or at the muddy boot-welcoming Barn café. As for outdoor pursuits for the kids, they can keep it in the family at Bucklebury Farm, which Pippa has just bought. George, Charlotte and Louis can run around with their cousins - three-year-old Arthur and one-year-old Grace - exploring the giant deer park, going on tractor rides and feeding the pygmy goats, Shetland ponies and rare breed Berkshire pigs. So far, so idyllic – if the kids weren’t too sure about leaving behind their comfortable London life, an afternoon spent bottle feeding baby lambs might just soften the blow.