Last year it was announced Prince Harry would marry his partner Meghan Markle and, since then, the country has been eagerly awaiting their fairy-tale wedding. The second Royal Wedding within the decade, after Prince William and Kate Middleton’s marriage in April 2011, the ceremony will take place on the 19th May and is expected to be a spectacular event broadcasted across the nation.
As with all royal couples, Harry and Meghan have been gifted several important properties within the royal estates for their wedding and married life afterwards. So far, the couple have been living in the small, but quaint, Nottingham Cottage in the Kensington Palace grounds, however, over the last few months it has been announced that they will receive an extensive apartment in the Kensington Palace itself and a cottage in the Sandringham Estate’s grounds.
We decided to commission a survey asking the public which royal palace they would most like to see Harry and Megan frequent after their marriage. The results were quite interesting:
Kensington Palace has long been associated with the Royal Family and continues to be one of the main residences for royal couples and relatives. The Palace originally started out life as a small mansion which was built at the beginning of the 17th Century, however the property was bought by the King and Queen, William and Mary, in 1689 as a retreat away from the bustling court life of Whitehall in central London.
The royal couple made extensive innovations to the original mansion, employing the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren to redesign the Palace in the latest European Baroque style. Kensington Palace quickly became the favoured residence of William and Mary, and being keen gardeners, the two of them helped to make Kensington’s gardens a spectacular display of ordered horticulture, following in the footsteps of the courtly gardens of William’s Dutch homeland.
Both Royals would sadly die prematurely in their beloved Place with Mary falling ill to smallpox in 1694 and William eventually succumbing to the wounds he gained after falling from his horse whilst riding at Hampton Court. The Palace would however continue to be a favoured residence of the Monarchy all the way through the 18th Century until King George III purchased Buckingham Palace in 1761.
In recent years, Kensington Palace has been the traditional place of residence for various Royal Family members and couples. Prince Charles and Princess Diana both lived at the palace for much of their married life and it is was at Kensington that the young Princes William and Harry spent most of their childhood. The Palace continued to be the official residence of Princess Diana after her divorce with Charles and the gates of the Kensington became a huge focal point for public mourning after her death in 1997.
Today the Palace is divided into various apartments and houses including those belonging to Prince William and Kate Middleton as well as Prince Harry and Meghan Merkle’s current home in Nottingham Cottage. Last month it was announced that the couple would later be given the 21-bedroom(!) apartment (known as Apartment 1) that formerly belonged to the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
This spectacular brick palace was originally built over 500 years ago by the then Archbishop of York, Thomas Wolsey. Wolsey was also a chief advisor to the infamous Henry VIII and wanted to create a house which imitated the fashionable Renaissance architecture coming out of Italy at this time but with an English twist.
As we all know, Henry VIII’s relationships were not exactly ideal and it would be the divorce with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, which would see Hampton Court Palace fall into royal hands. When Henry wanted to divorce Catherine in the 1520’s in order to marry the beautiful noble lady Anne Boleyn, Wolsey was adamantly against it. Being a strict Roman Catholic, Wolsey agreed with the Pope that the divorce was not allowed and, as a result, quickly fell out of favour with the King.
As a gesture of goodwill, the Archbishop ‘gifted’ Henry his home, Hampton Court. However, despite Henry accepting the gift and adding the house to his extensive list of over 60 properties (!), the King still arrested Wolsey for treason and soon after the Archbishop died in prison.
Henry would go on to divorce Catherine and marry Anne, breaking the English Church away from Catholicism and creating the Church of England in the process. Henry also took up regular residency within Hampton Court after Wolsey’s death, expanding the palace greatly. The Great Hall was added to accommodate his court of nearly a 1000 people and a Tennis Court was built for the King’s pleasure. The famous central clocktower was also added and a number of renovations were made inside the palace for the King and new Queen. In fact, the work on Anne Boleyn’s apartments was still being completed while she was accused of adultery and beheaded in 1536!
Henry’s next wife, Jane Seymour would eventually take up residency in these quarters where she gave birth to Henry’s long awaited son, Edward. However, Jane would die during child birth leaving Henry to go on to marry three more wives, Anne of Cleves (divorced), Catherine Howard (beheaded) and Catherine Parr. Hampton Court continued to be visited by the Royal Family and extended upon until the 20th Century when it was made open to the public.
When Queen Victoria became besotted with the German Prince Albert and married him in 1840, the newly weds wanted to create a get away retreat where they could relax and raise a family together, outside of the hustle and bustle of London. After a couple of years together, the couple decided to build a family house on the Isle of Wight where they could begin their family life.
The Isle of Wight was chosen by Victoria and Albert as it was not only far away from London, but also a place where Victoria had enjoyed visiting as a child and a location which reminded Albert of his favourite holiday destination, the Bay of Naples. The house itself was designed by Albert and made to resemble the Italian Renaissance buildings which were found in Naples. The cost of the house was actually funded by the selling of the former private retreat of King George IV, Brighton Pavilion, an uncle of Victoria who she apparently despised!
Victoria and Albert would go on to have 9 children after their marriage and made Osborne House their personal, family retreat. For long periods of the year, particularly in the Spring and Summer, the Royal Family would visit and stay in the house, schooling their children and enjoying Osborne House’s extensive gardens. Yet, with Albert’s premature death in 1861 of typhoid, Victoria became secluded and austere, confining herself to Windsor Castle, Balmoral and also Osborne House. What had once been a home of love and happiness became a place of sorrow and memories for the Queen.
In her will, Victoria made it very clear that Osborne House was to stay in the Royal Family’s hands, however none of her children wanted the property after her death at the house in 1901. Instead her son, Edward VII, presented Osborne House to the nation and eventually, in 1981, came under the management of English Heritage who opened the house to the public.
Sandringham House and its grounds were originally designed and constructed in the 18th Century as a luxury estate. After passing through a number of wealthy individuals’ hands, the estate was finally purchased by Queen Victoria in 1862 for £220,000, around an incredible £27million in today’s money!
The house had been purchased at the request of Victoria’s eldest son and the next in line to the throne, Edward, as a place for him and his new wife, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, to live after they were married. The site was particularly special to Alexandra as it was said the surrounding Norfolk countryside reminded her greatly of her home in Denmark.
Despite the extortionate amount of money Victoria spent on the property for her son and his new wife, Edward was not content with the size of Sandringham and had the whole house pulled down and rebuilt in 1870. When he became king, Edward continued to regularly visit the house until his death in 1910 and Alexandra lived there with their son George until 1925 when she finally passed away.
Sandringham quickly became George V’s favourite place of residence and where he and his family would stay during holiday periods, as well as being the location of the first Royal Christmas broadcast by the Monarch in 1932. Four years later George V passed away in the house leaving the property to his son, Edward VIII, however, after a scandalous affair with the American divorcee Wallace Simpson, the young King quickly abdicated, handing the crown over to his brother (and our Queen’s father) George VI.
Like his father before him, George VI would spend much of his time at Sandringham with his family, describing the house as the place where he was the happiest and loved the most. The young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret ended up spending much of their childhood, and since George’s death at Sandringham in 1952, the Queen has continued to use the house as her holiday retreat, visiting Sandringham on the anniversary of her father’s death and her own Accession as well as using the estate during the Christmas period where she continues her Grandfather’s tradition with the Christmas Royal broadcast.
Last month it was announced that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would be given the property known as York Cottage on the Sandringham Estate as a wedding gift from the Queen. The Cottage was a particular favourite of the King George V, who spent much of his time there, and the couple are expected to move in soon after their honeymoon in May.
The most famous palace of them all, and perhaps the most famous in the world, Buckingham Palace is synonymous with Britain’s Royal Family. The origins of the Palace however are rather modest when compared to the structure we know and love today. Originally known as Buckingham House, the site was occupied by a small mansion built by one Sir William Blake in 1624.
The property passed through several hands until it was completely redesigned in 1703 by the Duke of Buckingham who gave the house its name. The house was rebuilt in the classical style popular at the time and is today what makes up much of the central part of the Palace’s structure. In 1761, the King, George III, decided to purchase the house and managed to buy it for a meagre £21,000 (around £500,000 in today’s money) due to complications with the estate’s land grants.
George bought the house for his wife, Queen Charlotte, and wanted it to be a place where she could relax and raise the royal couple’s young family. Extensions where made to original structure and soon the house began to resemble the Palace we know today. Being a family man, George soon took up permanent residency in Buckingham Palace with his wife and 15 children (!), of which 14 were born in the Palace itself.
Sadly, in his old age, George III succumbed to mental health problems and was confined by his doctors to Windsor Castle where he died in 1820. His son, also called George, would later spend vast amounts of money in order to redesign the façade of Buckingham Palace as well as investing a huge amount in his private retreat, Brighton Pavilion. Soon the new King got into massive debt however and the additions to Buckingham Palace were stalled until his brother William IV came to the throne.
It was Queen Victoria who made Buckingham Palace the monarch’s official residence and the Queen had the large wings of the Palace built in 1847 to accommodate her growing family and court. Since then, Buckingham Palace has remained the monarch’s home and, due to its fame and reputation, will probably continue to be long into the future.
As you can see, the royal palaces of Britain have seen their fair share of royal marriages and dramas. From the six wives of King Henry VIII to the romantic gardens of William and Mary, from the family homes of Osborne House and Sandringham to the grandeur of Buckingham place, each palace is steeped in the history of royal couples and their families.
With the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle now only weeks away, we can’t wait to see the couple’s spectacular wedding and we wish them all the best in their future life together in Britain’s royal palaces!