King Charles III and the Queen Consort travelled to London from Balmoral Castle in Scotland on Friday 9 September, entering Buckingham Palace for the first time since the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
The palace is now technically the official London home of the King, though it’s thought that he will continue living at nearby Clarence House for the time being, with major building work yet to be completed at Buckingham Palace.
The royal family’s property moves have been significant in the past few years — notably William and Kate, now the Prince and Princess of Wales, relocating to Windsor to be nearer the Queen and their children’s new school, Lambrook. But none have been as big as that now faced by the King and Queen Consort.
Though it seems that much is yet to be decided, the process of dividing the various residences between members of the family has begun.
The palace (measuring 828,821 sq ft, with 775 rooms set over five floors, a doctor’s surgery, swimming pool and 40 acres of gardens in its central London location alongside St James’s and Mayfair) has been the official home of the sovereign, and the headquarters of the monarchy since 1837.
In a break with tradition, though, is not yet known whether the King and Queen Consort will officially move there.
Indeed, there has long been speculation that the King would prefer to base himself at Windsor Castle. It is thought that when Buckingham Palace’s 10-year £369 million restoration and renovation are completed, it will be opened up to the public on a much greater scale than in previous years — which royal insiders are taking as a sign that the King may well move his court to Windsor.
Even if he does stay at Buckingham Palace, the King intends to create a “slimmed down” set-up that would see him use a “flat above the shop” — much in the way prime ministers tend to live in an apartment at 10 or 11 Downing Street (the late Queen’s living quarters at Buckingham Palace included more than 50 royal and guest bedrooms, plus 188 staff bedrooms).
The Royal Collection Trust is responsible for the care of the official residences of The King, including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, as well as Clarence House, which was the official London home of the King and Queen Consort when they were known as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
This was the King and the Queen Consort’s official London residence until the death of the Queen on Thursday 8 September. Beside St James’s Palace on The Mall, it was the residence of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother from 1953 until 2002 and was also the home of Queen Elizabeth II, then Princess Elizabeth, and the Duke of Edinburgh following their marriage in 1947.
King Charles, who lived in the house until the age of three, had the interiors updated by interior designer Robert Kime in 2002 and moved in in August 2003.
After the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, King Charles returned to his converted farmhouse - Llwynywermod – near Llandovery in Carmarthenshire, Wales.
King Charles and the Queen Consort also have a private residence in Scotland, on the Balmoral estate, called Birkhall.
Highgrove House in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, is King Charles and the Queen Consort’s family home — close to Princess Anne and the Tindalls at Gatcombe Park.
The house, garden and nearby farmland were all purchased in 1980 by the Duchy of Cornwall, and King Charles — then Prince Charles — moved in.
Built in the late 18th century, the house has interiors by Robert Kime, who also decorated rooms at Clarence House, and is used to host briefings and receptions. It has a specially designed reed bed sewage system which is used for all the house’s waste - and is supposedly loved by dragonflies.
Indeed, the house’s gardens were intended, as King Charles once said, to “please the eye and sit in harmony with nature”. The gardens are open to the public between April and October, and attract up to 40,000 visitors per year.
For the most part, the King and the Queen Consort have split their time between Highgrove and Clarence House in recent years.
As he has now also inherited the title of the Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge, Prince William stands to inherit the Duchy of Cornwall — a private estate set up by Edward III in 1337 to provide income for the heir to the throne. Should the King and Queen Consort keep Highgrove House as a family home it is likely they would be paying rent to the Duchy of Cornwall.
After the death of the Duke of Edinburgh in April 2021, the Queen announced a permanent move to Windsor Castle, where she and the Duke had spent lockdown together.
The 900-year-old fortress was previously used as her weekend escape from 775-room Buckingham Palace. With 1,000 rooms, it is the largest occupied castle in the world.
The Queen was distraught when a fire broke out at the castle in 1992, destroying 115 rooms and nine state rooms. Artwork was saved by groups of staff but the fire was catastrophic for the palace’s interiors and structure.
The Duke of Edinburgh played a key role in the restoration of Windsor Castle, which had not been insured, with works costing around £70 million in today’s money — and largely funded by entrance fees to the estate as well as Buckingham Palace.
The Prince and Princess of Wales and their children have relocated from Kensington Palace to Adelaide Cottage on the Windsor Estate, thought to have been chosen as their new home so they could be closer to the Queen, for reasons of privacy, and to avoid a busy school run.
The family’s new four-bedroom home is a short walk from the castle, and considerably more modest than their four-storey, 22-room home in Kensington (more on which later).
Adelaide Cottage was modernised in 2015 so it didn’t require a huge renovation before the family could move in. It was also made clear that they would not have live-in staff.
Features at the home are said to include gilded dolphins on the master bedroom ceiling, and rope decoration from a 19th- century royal yacht.
The Windsor Estate is also home to a number of other royals who are likely to be staying put, despite the shift in duties which will require some to be closer to London. Prince Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson reside in Royal Lodge, a Grade II-listed, 30-room home, five miles from the castle.
The Prince renewed a 75-year lease on the property, which has an indoor swimming pool, in 2003. It is at Royal Lodge where the late Queen’s remaining corgis, Muick and Sandy, will also reside.
Another property on the Windsor estate, Fort Belvedere is the Queen’s “forgotten castle” in Surrey, built between 1750 and 1755 and owned by the Crown Estate. The 59-acre fort is where Edward VIII signed his abdication notice. It had been suggested as a potential future home for Prince William’s family, but it seems they have decided to live at the far more modest Adelaide Cottage for now.
Unlike Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle, Adelaide Cottage was not owed by Queen Elizabeth II. Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle are owned by the Crown Estate.
Another royal residence with a deceptively humble name, Frogmore Cottage is a Grade II-listed Georgian house also in the grounds of Windsor Castle.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle moved to the property from in 2019, spending £2.4 million on renovations to turn the five separate apartments into one home.
Following the Sussexes’ move to Montecito, California, Frogmore Cottage was gifted to Princess Eugenie, Jack Brooksbank and their son August on the condition that the Sussexes would stay there on visits to the UK. Accordingly, this is where they stayed for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.
The Brooksbanks are said to be splitting their time between the UK and Portugal.
Meanwhile, Ivy Cottage, Eugenie and Jack’s former home on the Kensington Palace grounds is thought to be empty at present – as is Nottingham Cottage, Harry and Meghan’s previous home, also at Kensington Palace.
Once dubbed “the royal commune” as it housed several members of the royal family, the palace was the childhood home of Queen Victoria.
Until this summer, Apartment 1A was also the residence of the now Prince and Princess of Wales. Less an apartment and more a four-storey luxury home, this residence was given to William and Kate by the Queen as a wedding present in 2011.
It is where they lived with Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis until their move to the Windsor Estate this summer. Before they moved in to Kensington Palace, 1A underwent an enormous renovation, which reportedly cost £4.5 million.
William and Kate opted for a more open-plan layout, reducing the number of rooms from 30 to 22. They included two nurseries, three kitchens, a drawing room, staff quarters and offices for some of Princess Diana’s charities.
Upgrades to royal properties such as Kensington Palace are financed through the Sovereign Grant. This comes from the Government, and covers official duties and running costs, including building maintenance.
It is calculated as a proportion of profits made from the Crown Estate, which is the largest property owner in the West End.
Balmoral Estate in Aberdeenshire is where the Queen usually spent August, September and some of October. This year, the Queen travelled to Balmoral on July 21 and, for the first time, had audiences with her outgoing and incoming Prime Ministers there rather than at Buckingham Palace.
Balmoral, like Sandringham Estate, where a house has just been listed for rent on Airbnb, is a private home rather than a royal residence owned by the Crown Estate.
Privately owned by the late Queen Elizabeth II, the 20,000-acre Sandringham Estate has been in the royal family for more than a century and will now pass to King Charles III.
Sandringham House has a Grade II listing. The Queen used to stay there from Christmas until mid-February most years, with close members of the royal family joining her for the festive season.
A Georgian house in the village of Amner, Norfolk, on the Sandringham Estate.
The 10-bedroom home was given to Prince William and Catherine by Queen Elizabeth II after their wedding in 2011. It’s thought the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and Cambridge will continue to use it as a holiday hideaway.
The Tindalls live on Princess Anne’s 700-acre Gloucestershire estate, Gatcombe Park. They moved there in 2013, after selling their home in Cheltenham – a detached, Grade II-listed townhouse called Hallery House which sold for £1.2 million.
The estate’s main building (also Grade II-listed) is Princess Anne and her husband Sir Timothy Laurence’s home. It was purchased by the Queen as a wedding gift for her daughter Anne and her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips, in 1976.
Built in the late 18th century, Gatcombe Park was remodelled in 1820 by architect George Basevi, who added a conservatory, single-storey wings, a porch, stables and a coach house.
The estate is also a working farm, with some 230 sheep, 20 cows and 2 pigs, and hosts the annual Festival of British Eventing, with Zara Tindall as a regular competitor.
This 19th century mansion set on 51 acres of land in Surrey is where Prince Edward, Sophie Wessex and their two children live.
The couple moved to the property when they married in 1999, following an extensive renovation. It was leased by the Crown Estate to Prince Edward for 50 years initially, and has since been extended to 150 years by the couple.
Originally, the property comprised of a number of lodges designed for King Charles I. The original house was demolished in 1877 and rebuilt two years later for the Duke of Connaught, one of Queen Victoria’s sons, with around 120 rooms.
It became the regimental headquarters for the Royal Army Chaplain’s department for 50 years following the Second World War – until the Wessexes arrived.