Queen Consort to keep Wiltshire bolthole as an ‘escape from royal life’

·3-min read
The Queen Consort will still spend time at Ray Mill House, even though her husband now has access to a host of new royal residences as King - Chris Jackson/Reuters
The Queen Consort will still spend time at Ray Mill House, even though her husband now has access to a host of new royal residences as King - Chris Jackson/Reuters

The Queen Consort will carry on using her privately-owned Wiltshire home to give her “an escape from royal life”, despite her change in status.

Her Majesty has already spent time at Ray Mill House since the death of Queen Elizabeth II and has no plans to sell the bolthole, despite her husband inheriting four official residences and two country estates in addition to his two other UK homes.

The Queen bought her six-bedroom property after her divorce from her first husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, more than 25 years ago. She cherishes the time she spends there with family and friends in a more relaxed setting than royal residences allow.

The house is a short distance from the King’s private residence, Highgrove, in Gloucestershire. The Queen spent time at Ray Mill House when the monarch took a short breather at Highgrove in the days after his mother’s death.

One friend of the Queen said: “If you consider that Highgrove is the most relaxed of the King’s residences, even there you are always surrounded by a team of private staff including a chef, a butler and police on every corner, so there is no true private time.

“The King has grown up with that all of his life, so it’s not such a burden for him to exist in that observed world, but the Queen Consort has spent most of her life as a private citizen - so she understands the meaning of shutting your front door and having a place to yourself.

“Ray Mill is the only place where she can literally and metaphorically kick off her shoes and spend time with family and friends in a really informal setting.

“It’s an escape from royal life and it will be treasured even more greatly now.”

Unlike Highgrove, where the garden is open to the public on set days, Ray Mill House is also somewhere that is always available.

Highgrove, pictured, is not always as relaxing at Ray Mill House - Chris Jackson/PA
Highgrove, pictured, is not always as relaxing at Ray Mill House - Chris Jackson/PA

Royal staff privately accept that there are also more practical reasons for the Queen Consort to keep her own private residence. If she were to outlive the King, she would be able to return to Ray Mill without having to work out with his successor where she was going to live.

It also gives her a property she will be able to pass on to her own children.

The King now has the use of Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh and Hillsborough Castle outside Belfast. Countless other royal residences, including St James’s Palace, Kensington Palace and Clarence House now belong to him in his capacity as monarch.

He has inherited the Balmoral and Sandringham estates, which were privately owned by the late Queen. He already owned a large cottage in Wales, as well as Highgrove.

The couple are currently staying on the Balmoral estate, where the Queen died earlier this month, and where the King is likely to spend time at Birkhall, the large house on the estate that he inherited from Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Royal sources describe Birkhall as his “true home” and the property he would keep if he was only allowed to have one residence.