A Peek Into the Private Home and Family Life of Queen Elizabeth II

Shannon Quinn - September 16, 2022
Birkhall, the royal residence. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Birkhall Was a Summer Retreat

Birkhall is a 53,000 acre estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. While the structure itself dates back to 1715, it first came into the royals’ possession in 1852. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, acquired Birkhall as a gift for his son, the future King Edward VII. This 18th-century home near Balmoral was used as a holiday retreat for the duke and duchess of York and the princesses. Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip would later stay there during the summer with their young children.

Credit: Express Co UK

The Queen Mother was Birkhall’s longtime resident; she apparently fondly called it the “little big house.” After her death in 2002, it became the Prince of Wales’s Scottish home. King Charles III took a lot of pride in improving the gardens at Birkhall. He said, “It is such a special place, particularly because it was made by my grandmother. It is a childhood garden, and all I’ve done, really, is enhance it a bit.” (via Country Life)

Elizabeth and her husband both lived in Windlesham Moor temporarily. Credit: Express Co UK

Windlesham Moor Was a Temporary Home For Elizabeth

Between 1947 and 1949, Princess Elizabeth and her husband rented ​​Windlesham Moor, a furnished country house in Surrey. According to Country Living, the Victorian home had five bedrooms, a 50-foot drawing room, a study, a games room, and a nursery made up of two guest rooms. Philip Hill bought the Victorian home and grounds in a state of disrepair in 1942 for £40,000 (equivalent to £1,980,000 in 2021). Later the Royal Family bought the renovated Sunninghill Park house and park from Hill. He renovated the house in 1944. It was rented furnished from his widow, Mrs. Warwick Bryant, for Princess Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Baby Prince Charles with his mother Queen Elizabeth II. Credit: Express Co UK

The house was acquired by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who carried out significant renovation and extensions, added a security gatehouse in 2002, and included the houses “Winklands” and “Rose Cottage” into the estate. From July to September, Al Maktoum, his family, and other Arab dignitaries live in the house. Occasionally the Sheikh’s guests live there at other times. The property is maintained by property managers, gardeners and security personnel. A painting of the house and gardens circa 1934, attributed to Winston Churchill, was discovered and sold at auction in September 2008. (via Wikipedia)

Happy Buckingham Palace employees. Credit: Royal UK

Buckingham Palace Had Facilities and Functioned Like a Miniature Town

It may surprise some of you to know that Buckingham Palace was much more than just a home for Queen Elizabeth. There are 188 staff bedrooms, and many of her employees live and work there full time. In order to make these employees feel comfortable, there are loads of facilities there for them to use. The huge estate has its own movie theater, post office, doctor’s office, gym, swimming pool, counseling services, ATM, and much more. This way, employees almost never have to leave if they want to get anything done. It’s like its own miniature community.

When they have time off, guards can enjoy some of the castle’s facilities. Credit: Shutterstock

Employees can also join extracurricular activities, like a choir, book club, and more. At one point in time, there was even a bar for the staff to enjoy a few drinks when they were done their shift. However, people were getting drunk way too often, so it was decided that it would be much better to shut down the bar and keep things professional. (via Weird History)

Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Balmoral Castle in Scotland Was One of the Queen’s Favorite Places in the World

“The queen spent a portion of her summer at Balmoral Castle in Scotland each year. The private residence, originally purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert (Queen Elizabeth II’s great-great-grandparents), reportedly sits on 50,000 acres with 150 total buildings. While the home remains largely the same as it did in Victoria’s possession, Elizabeth made slight renovations. This property was said to be her favorite, and it is where she died peacefully.”

A far-off view of Balmoral Castle. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“In a 2016 documentary, her granddaughter Princess Eugenie said it best: “I think Granny is the most happy there. I think she really, really loves the Highlands. Walks, picnics, dogs—a lot of dogs, there’s always dogs. And people come in and out all the time.” (via Architectural Digest)

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Holyroodhouse Palace Served as Another Summer Getaway

The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. It was originally built as a monastery in 1128. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle, Holyroodhouse has served as the principal royal residence in Scotland since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertainment. After her death, the Queen’s coffin was taken to Holyroodhouse before moving on to St Giles’s Cathedral.

The Abbey of Holyroodhouse. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The late Queen, Elizabeth II, spent one week in residence at Holyroodhouse at the beginning of each summer for Royal Week, where she carried out a range of official engagements and ceremonies. The 16th-century historic apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the State Apartments, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public throughout the year, except when members of the Royal Family are in residence. The Queen’s Gallery was built at the western entrance to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and opened in 2002 to exhibit works of art from the Royal Collection. The gardens of the palace are set within Holyrood Park. (via Wikipedia)

Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Hillsborough Castle is a Royal Residence in Northern Ireland

The historic Hillsborough Castle is the royal family’s official residence in Northern Ireland. However, the Queen hadn’t visited for six years prior to her death, and last stayed there during a visit with the late Prince Philip in 2016. Hillsborough Castle boasts 100 acres of gardens and beautiful interiors, and this home is not actually a true castle. It’s a Georgian era country house. But it’s still very large, and would be considered a castle compared to most people’s homes!

Credit: Historic Royal Palaces

From 1924 until the post’s abolition in 1973, it was the official residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland. Since April 2014, it has been managed by Historic Royal Palaces, and is open to the paying members of the public. When Historic Royal Palaces took over the running of the estate, they started a five-year refurbishment that is believed to have cost £24 million. (via Hello Magazine)

Kensington Palace. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Queen Loved to Visit Her Grandchildren at Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is a royal residence set in Kensington Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England. It has been a residence of the British royal family since the 17th century, and is currently the official London residence of the Prince and Princess of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.

The Cupola Room in Kensington Palace. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Prince and Princess of Wales and their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, primarily resided in Kensington Palace Apartment 1A until 2022, when they moved to Adelaide Cottage in Windsor. The 20-room, four-story Kensington apartment underwent a $1.6 million renovation prior to the pair’s 2013 move-in. An additional $4.9 million revamp took place the following year, the palace confirmed by People Magazine. (via People)

Adelaide Cottage. Credit: People Magazine

The Queen Was Even Closer to Her Grandkids At Adelaide Cottage

The Prince and Princess of Wales decided to downsize their living arrangement. From 20 rooms in Kensington Palace down to just a 4-bedroom house called Adelaide Cottage. They did not want any servants to live in the house with them. The couple wanted their children to have more of a normal life in the suburbs.

A painting of the cottage from 1839. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Adelaide Cottage is located on the grounds of Windsor Castle, close to St. George’s Chapel. It’s roughly 25 miles from central London. Adelaide Cottage was originally built for Queen Adelaide, the wife of King William IV, in 1831. They used building materials from the Royal Lodge, according to the Royal Collection. Since the Queen moved to Windsor Castle in 2020, this meant that they were practically living in the same home. At least, it was the same property, even if Adelaide Cottage is its own private residence. (via Architectural Digest)

Nottingham Cottage. Credit: House and Garden UK

The Queen Visited Megan and Harry When They Lived in Nottingham Cottage, then Frogmore Cottage

Following their engagement announcement in 2017, the former Suits star moved into Prince Harry’s home, Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex remained in the 1,300-square-foot two-bedroom home until shortly before the 2019 birth of their son, Archie. When it came time to relocate, the pair decided to head back to the site of their wedding, Windsor Castle, and live on the grounds’ Frogmore Cottage. The home, which was a wedding gift from the Queen, wasn’t quite ready for the family of three. Turning the five-unit property into a single-family house required a renovation that cost more than $3 million. The cottage now has 10 bedrooms, a nursery, a gym, and a yoga studio.

Frogmore Cottage in 1872, because modern photos are nearly impossible to get. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Then, in early 2020, Harry and Meghan made the shocking decision to move across the pond. After a brief stint in Canada and then Los Angeles, the pair ultimately settled in a $14.7 million estate in the upscale enclave of Montecito, California. The couple paid back the $3 million spent to renovate Frogmore Cottage, though they are still able to use the home when they visit the U.K. In fact, they returned for the first time in June, when they returned to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and hosted a first birthday party for Lilibet in the garden. (via Architectural Digest)

The Crown Estate owns commercial real estate in London. Credit: DW

The Crown Estate Owns Multiple Properties

Regent Street is one of London’s best-known thoroughfares. For nearly a mile, it is lined with well-known shops, bars and restaurants. As commercial real estate goes, it is about as prime as it gets. Remarkably, practically every square inch of the street is owned by a single company: The Crown Estate. This is clearly not just any old enterprise. As well as vast tracts of central London, The Crown Estate owns property all across the UK, from castles and cottages to agricultural land and forests plus retail parks and shopping centers.

The Queen owned billions of dollars in real estate. Credit: Shutterstock

It owns more than half the UK’s entire seashore, giving it hugely valuable auction rights for offshore commercial activity, such as wind farms. Administering real estate worth at least $17.8 billion, it is one of Europe’s largest property groups. The question of who exactly owns the real estate empire is not a straightforward one, though. “The Crown Estate belongs to the reigning monarch ‘in right of the Crown,’. It is owned by the monarch for the duration of their reign, by virtue of their accession to the throne,” the company explains. “But it is not the private property of the monarch — it cannot be sold by the monarch, nor do revenues from it belong to the monarch.” (via DW)

Charles and Camilla lived in Clarence House together. Credit: Express Co UK

King Charles III and His Wife Camilla Lived in the Queen’s Former Home, Clarence House in London

Clarence House is a royal residence in the City of Westminster, London. It was built in 1825-1827, adjacent to St James’s Palace, for the Duke of Clarence, the future king William IV. King Charles III and the Queen Consort, Camilla, have mainly resided at Clarence House in London since their wedding in 2005. The property was once home to Charles’s grandmother, the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Prior to the couple moving in, the home underwent extensive renovations and was refurbished with new artwork, textiles, and a new color scheme.

Camilla entertaining in Clarence house. Credit: Express Co UK

Following the Queen’s death, over 100 employees of Clarence house received a notice that they may lose their jobs. This is most likely because King Charles III will be moving to Buckingham Palace. This was highly criticized, because the staff was still in their period of mourning. It was called “nothing short of heartless”. It’s also strange to lay everyone off, because the Prince of Wales will be moving to the residence, and may need help himself. (via The Guardian)

Buckingham Palace became the new home of King Charles III, because every monarch must live there. Credit: Shutterstock

Now That He Is King, Charles Will Move Into Buckingham Palace

It is tradition for the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom to live in Buckingham Palace. With its 775 rooms, it is the biggest residential prize, official home to the reigning monarch and their spouse. A few days after Queen Elizabeth’s death, King Charles III and Queen Camilla held their first audiences in the building’s glamorous 1844 Room.

These soldiers are renamed The King’s Guard, because of the Queen’s passing. Credit: Shutterstock

At the moment, there are renovations happening at Buckingham Palace that are not expected to be complete until 2027. So there is a chance that King Charles III will continue living in his other residence with Queen Camilla until the property is done. However, he will still be expected to spend a large amount of time in the palace in order to complete his duties as the King. (via Architectural Digest)