As Queen’s move to Windsor Castle said to be ‘permanent’, how does it compare to her other residences?

·8-min read
(PA) (PA Archive)
(PA) (PA Archive)

The Queen plans to live permanently at Windsor Castle and will not return to her London residence Buckingham Palace full time, according to reports over the weekend.

The 96-year-old monarch is said to prefer Windsor to Buckingham Palace and moved to the castle, which had been her weekend residence, during the first national lockdown in March 2020.

It was the last home she shared with Prince Philip before his death last April and is also popular with the younger generation of royals who are moving there to bring up their young families.

Princess Eugenie, Jack Brooksbank and their baby August live in Frogmore Cottage, the former home of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle who stay there on UK visits.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are also rumoured to be considering a move to Windsor Great Park, with one of the Queen's "extra" homes, Fort Belvedere, tipped as a possible new home for William, Kate, George, Charlotte and Louis.

Set to celebrate her platinum jubilee this year, the Queen has been visiting Windsor since she was a small child, initially staying at the Royal Lodge and then later evacuated to Windsor Castle during World War Two.

These are just two of the many homes the Queen has lived in during her 95 years, few of which can compare with the 775-room Buckingham Palace, which she is expected only to visit on day trips from now on.

Royal Lodge, Windsor

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret in the garden of the Royal Lodge (Getty Images)
Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret in the garden of the Royal Lodge (Getty Images)

When not in London the young family were given the use of Royal Lodge, a Grade II-listed house set in 100 private acres within Windsor Great Park.

In its grounds stands the first home Princess Elizabeth actually owned. In 1932 the six year old princess was gifted a miniature cottage by the people of Wales. The fully functioning cottage – named Y Bwthyn Bach (or The Little Cottage) – came with a kitchen, living room, bedroom, and working bathroom and was erected in the grounds of Royal Lodge.

The pretty white stucco Lodge is currently home to Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.

What is it worth? Last year a Russian oil tycoon splashed £21.5m on Windsor Park Hall, a mini estate in Englefield Green, close to Windsor Castle. With its royal connections Royal Lodge could comfortably outsell it.

Windsor Castle, Berkshire

Windsor Castle (PA Wire)
Windsor Castle (PA Wire)

The Queen got her first taste of castle life during World War Two when she and Princess Margaret moved, for safety reasons, to Windsor.

Their former nanny Marion Crawford, in her book The Little Princesses, recalled how they would take shelter in the “beetle-infested” dungeons during air raids.

Work on building the Queen’s country pad began in around 1070, when William the Conqueror began building a timber castle to defend London’s western flank.

It was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century, enlarged, and today contains some 1,000 rooms. It is surrounded by 13 acres of grounds including stables where the Queen’s favourite mount, a Fell pony named Carltonlima Emma, is stabled.

What’s it worth? Sophie Durkin, regional director of Portico estate agents, estimates that the castle is worth circa £500 million.

17, Bruton Street, Mayfair

17 Bruton Street, the Queen’s birthplace (Getty Images)
17 Bruton Street, the Queen’s birthplace (Getty Images)

The Queen was born on 21 April 1927 at this Mayfair townhouse, which was owned by her grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore. She spent her first few months at the house, which was conveniently close to the Harley Street offices of speech therapist Lionel Logue who helped cure her father, the future king, of his stutter.

With little regard for the 18th century house’s place in history it was redeveloped in the 1930s. The Queen’s birthplace is now home to the Hakkasan restaurant.

What would it be worth today? Surviving townhouses on the street sell for an average of around £4.2m.

145, Piccadilly

145 Piccadilly in 1934. It has since been replaced by the InterContinental London Park Lane (REXSCANPIX)
145 Piccadilly in 1934. It has since been replaced by the InterContinental London Park Lane (REXSCANPIX)

When Princess Elizabeth was a few months old her parents upsized to a five storey, 25-bedroom house on Piccadilly, where they stayed until 1936.

Despite its grandeur and scale, photographs of the house suggest it was a homely sort of place with chintz armchairs, stacks of books and toys, a gramophone, and a glass case of toy animals belonging to Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

The garden was large enough for the future queen to play with her pet corgis Jane and Dookie. The house was destroyed during the Second World War, and the InterContinental London Park Lane now stands on its site.

What would it be worth today? The mansion would certainly be a nine figure property — in 2011 the billionaire property tycoons Simon and David Reuben spent £130m on a former gentleman’s club at 94, Piccadilly, which they plan to turn into a hotel.

Clarence House, St James’s Park

Clarence House (PA)
Clarence House (PA)

In 1947 Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip. Their first marital home was Clarence House, a grand stucco-plaster townhouse, less than half a mile from Buckingham Place. They furnished the 19th century property with wedding gifts and remained there until she became Queen in 1952.

It is now the official London residence of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.  Before their respective marriages Prince William, Prince Harry, Princess Beatrice, and Princess Eugenie all had apartments at Clarence House.

What’s it worth? In 2019 hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin spent £95m on a townhouse half a mile from Clarence House. Its history and greater floorspace means that Clarence House could comfortably be worth more than twice that – and Durkin suggests it could sell for as much as £250 million.

Like Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, it is not technically owned by the Queen but held in trust for the reigning monarch by the Crown Estate. On that basis it is unlikely to ever be sold.

Buckingham Palace, Westminster

Buckingham Palace (PA)
Buckingham Palace (PA)

Following her father’s early death Queen Elizabeth gave up Clarence House and was given the keys to London’s biggest private home instead.

The palace had started life as a large townhouse built in 1703 but was remodelled and enlarged during the 19th century and now measures more than 830,000 sq ft. The palace contains 775 individual rooms including 53 “principal bedrooms” and 19 state rooms. Its biggest room is the ballroom, measuring 120ft long and 59ft wide.

What’s it worth? Sophie Durkin, regional director of Portico estate agents, estimates that the palace is worth up to £1 billion.

Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland

Queen Elizabeth II Attends Ceremony Of The Key At Holyrood Palace (Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II Attends Ceremony Of The Key At Holyrood Palace (Getty Images)

The Queen traditionally makes an annual visit to her official Scottish residence, which started life as an abbey founded in around 1128 which King James IV began converting into a palace after his marriage to Margaret Tudor (sister of King Henry VIII) in 1503.

Relatively compact compared to Windsor or Buckingham Palace it still measures a reported 87,120 sq ft and has around 289 rooms.

What’s it worth? Top end property in Edinburgh’s old town sells at around £625 per sq ft. On that basis the palace, also held by the Crown Estate, is worth around £55m.

Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall during a reception at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland (PA)
The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall during a reception at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland (PA)

Less an actual castle, more a very grand townhouse, Hillsborough is owned by the British Government. It contains state apartments used by the Queen and other visiting members of the royal family and is set in 100 acres of gardens.

The Queen last visited in 2016, after a planned visit in October 2021 was cancelled on medical advice.

What’s it worth? The most recent Government valuation of the castle and grounds puts it at just over £70m.

Balmoral Castle and estate, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Balmoral Castle (PA)
Balmoral Castle (PA)

In 1852 Prince Albert bought the Balmoral Estate for his wife Queen Victoria and commissioned a new castle with a reported 50 bedrooms to accommodate the royal family and their entourage. It was completed four years later (1856).

The estate covers around 50,000 acres, including forests, farmland, and grouse moors. The Queen usually spends several weeks in the summer and early autumn at the castle and there is also plenty of room for visiting relatives, with some 150 individual buildings on the estate. These include Birkhall, formerly home to the Queen Mother (and now occupied by Prince Charles), and the more modest cottage Queen Victoria had built for her highland servant John Brown (their friendship was the subject of the 1997 film Mrs Brown).

There are also half a dozen holiday cottages which are rented out.

What’s it worth? Around £50m according to David McClure, an expert on royal finances and author of Royal Privilege: The Queen’s True Worth (2020).

Sandringham Estate, Norfolk

Sandringham (Getty Images)
Sandringham (Getty Images)

This Georgian country estate was bought as a rural getaway for the 21-year-old Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, for the princely sum of £220,000. It has been passed down through the Royal Family ever since.

It is where the Royal family traditionally spend Christmas, and the late Prince Philip spent most of his time there after retiring in 2017, opting to live in the relatively modest, five-bedroom Wood Farm, rather than the vast Sandringham House.

Like Balmoral the estate includes numerous subsidiary houses including Anmer Hall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s country home, and Park House where Princess Diana spent much of her childhood.

The Queen is thought to have spent last Christmas at the less formal Wood Farm. This is where Kate Middleton often stayed before marrying Prince William, and Sarah Ferguson was reportedly told she could stay at Christmas after her divorce, rather than at the big house with the rest of the family.

What’s it worth?  £50m to £60m according to David McClure .