Where the royal family actually lives
Some people are lucky enough to have two homes — a regular home and a holiday getaway. But when you’re a member of the royal family, you have several properties at your disposal.
We’ve all heard of Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Frogmore Cottage. But who actually lives there? And what about the lesser-known royal residences? Here’s a look at the numerous homes of Queen Elizabeth II and her family.
The most famous royal residence is Buckingham Palace in central London. Built in 1703 as Buckingham House, it’s been the official London residence of the U.K. monarchy since 1837, and is where Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, spend their time when they’re in the city. Among the many perks of living in Buckingham Palace are a Coutts & Co. (the royal family’s bank of choice) ATM, a post office, a movie theater and a cafeteria.
The Famous Balcony
Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms, including 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, 78 bathrooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms and 19 state rooms (used to entertain guests). It also has arguably the most famous balcony in the world. Situated on the large East Front, it’s where the most senior members of the royal family gather to wave to the crowds on special occasions (like weddings) and after the annual Trooping the Colour.
When the Queen and Prince Philip aren’t at Buckingham Palace, they’re usually at Windsor Castle, in Berkshire, which is under 60 miles west of London. They spend most of their weekends there, and it’s also their annual Easter vacation spot. Windsor Castle, which has been a royal residence for more than 900 years, is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, with more than 1,000 rooms and over 13 acres of land.
Royal Wedding Venue
Within Windsor Castle is St. George’s Chapel, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle married in May 2018. A few months later, in October 2018, Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank had their wedding ceremony there too. And when Harry and Meghan introduced baby Archie to the media, they chose to do it from inside St. George’s Chapel.
Originally purchased as a holiday home by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1852, Balmoral Castle sits on 50,000 acres in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It’s a regular summer destination for the Queen, where she receives plenty of visits from other members of the royal family. Prince William and Kate Middleton also spend a lot of time at their own home on the estate with their children.
A rustic seven-bedroom cottage on the grounds of the Balmoral estate, Craigowan Lodge was where Prince Charles and Princess Diana often stayed when they visited the Queen. These days, the Queen and Prince Philip like to spend the first few days of their annual summer trip there before moving into the Castle.
The Palace Of Holyroodhouse
Built as a monastery in 1128, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the Queen’s official residence when she’s in Scotland. It hosts several national events, including Holyrood Week, when the Queen visits various regions of Scotland to celebrate different aspects of the country’s culture. In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI was a special guest of the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Extended Royal Guests
In the 1670s, Charles II extended the Edinburgh palace, giving it an extra tower and new Royal Apartments with rich decor. Holyroodhouse is open to the public all year round, meaning anybody can get a close look at Holyrood Abbey, the Palace Gardens and the State Apartments. Holyroodhouse is also used by various members of the royal family, such as Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughter Zara Phillips, who stayed there when she married Mike Tindall in 2011.
The Queen inherited the 19,000-acre Sandringham estate from her father, George VI, in 1952. It’s been the private home of four generations of British monarchs since 1862. Situated near Norfolk, England, it’s where the royal family spends Christmas together, a gathering that includes attending religious services at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.
Originally built between 1825 and 1827, Clarence House has been the primary residence for many prominent members of the royal family. Elizabeth II and Prince Philip lived there from 1947 until 1953 when her father died and she ascended to the throne, and it was the London home of the Queen Mother from 1953 until her death in 2002. Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles moved there in 2003 with William and Harry prior to their 2005 wedding.
In 1980, Prince Charles bought Highgrove House in Gloucestershire. He and his then-wife Princess Diana took up residence there after their wedding in 1981. Young Prince William and Prince Harry spent a lot of time there during their childhoods.
Highgrove House is now the private country family home of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla Parker Bowles. It’s known for its stunning gardens, which are open to the public on certain dates throughout the year. According to the property’s official website, the gardens are “renowned as some of the most inspiring and innovative in the United Kingdom.”
St. James’ Palace
Until the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), St. James’ Palace was the primary residence of the British monarchs. It’s now the London residence of Princess Anne (the second child and only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II). The queen’s granddaughter Princess Beatrice also lives on the grounds with her husband Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.
Charity Receptions And Media Photocalls
St. James’ Palace is where the Garter King of Arms formally announces the accession of the new king or queen from the palace’s Proclamation Gallery after the death of a monarch. It’s also a venue for charity receptions associated with members of the royal family. After Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement in November 2010, they held a media photocall at St. James’s Palace.
Queen Victoria was born at Kensington Palace, London, on May 24, 1819, and spent her childhood there. Since then, it’s been the home and office of numerous royals, due to its proximity to Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace. Princess Diana lived there, both with Prince Charles after they married and on her own after their divorce, until her death in 1997.
Kensington Palace, Apartment 1A
The most senior royals living in Kensington Palace are Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who live at Apartment 1A with their children Princess Charlotte, Prince George and Prince Louis. CNN reported that the 20-room, four-story apartment benefitted from a $7.6 million makeover that included roof work and asbestos removal. When Barack and Michelle Obama visited the family in 2016, the world got an inside look at William and Kate’s home.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle lived at Nottingham Cottage on the grounds of Kensington Palace before they moved into Frogmore Cottage after their wedding. In fact, Nottingham Cottage was the setting for Harry’s marriage proposal, which happened while the couple was “trying to roast a chicken.”
In the couple’s first joint interview with the BBC, Markle called the proposal an “amazing surprise, it was so sweet and natural and very romantic” and revealed that Harry “got on one knee.”
Another smaller property — by royal standards, at least — on the grounds of Kensington Palace is Ivy Cottage, which was the first home of Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank. They then moved to Frogmore Cottage, the former home of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Six weeks later, they reportedly moved back to Ivy Cottage, according to Tatler.
Frogmore House And Frogmore Cottage
Nobody had heard of Frogmore House until it was the location of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding reception — that occasion put it on the map. According to the official history, the house was built in the 1680s by Charles II’s architect Hugh May for his nephew and had been let to royal tenants until Queen Charlotte purchased the lease in 1792. Queen Mary, Princess Augusta and Princess Helena have also lived there. Throughout its history, it has often been used as a venue for private and official events as well.
On the same grounds as Frogmore House is Frogmore Cottage, which was the home of Harry and Meghan before they moved to the U.S. The cottage is only half a mile from Windsor Castle, where the couple were married.
The Royal Lodge
The Royal Lodge, the longtime country residence of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, is three miles south of Windsor Castle. The Queen Mother used the lodge as one of her country retreats until her death in 2002. In 2004, after extensive renovations, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, moved into the 30-room home. He still lives there with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson.
Thatched House Lodge
Princess Alexandra, the queen’s cousin, has lived in Thatched House Lodge since 1963. The Historic England Grade-II listed property was originally built for the garden keepers of Richmond Park, and political figures like Wing Commander Sir Louis Greig and President Dwight D. Eisenhower have spent time there. In 2020, Alexandra gave a rare glimpse into her home during a video call to introduce the Alzheimer’s Society People Awards, a charity of which she is a patron.
Birkhall, which is on the grounds of Balmoral Castle, was bought by Queen Victoria for her son Edward, Prince of Wales, as part of the larger property. It was once the home of the Queen Mother, who apparently called it the “little big house,” reported Town & Country. After her death in 2002, it became the Prince of Wales’s Scottish home, and it was where he and Camilla spent their honeymoon in 2005.
Llwynywermod, the Welsh home of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, is a 215-acre estate in Llandovery, Wales. Charles and Camilla frequently stay there in the summer months during their annual tour of Wales. In 2007, the estate underwent a huge refurbishment by local Welsh craftsmen that included the installation of energy-efficient appliances, low-energy lighting and natural sheep’s wool insulation.
Gatcombe Park was built in the late 18th century and is a historical Grade-II listed building. It was purchased by Queen Elizabeth in 1976, and today it’s the Gloucester residence of Princess Anne and her husband Sir Timothy Laurence. In 2013, Princess Anne’s daughter Zara Tindall moved to the estate with her family.
Prince Edward, the queen’s youngest child, has lived at Bagshot Park in Surrey with his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, since their 1999 wedding. The royal residence, rumored to have 120 rooms after being rebuilt in 1879, sits on 87 acres and the property is listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Edward and Sophie’s children James, Viscount Severn and Lady Louise, also live in the giant mansion house.