Queen Elizabeth’s Abodes


From her birthplace to her beloved Balmoral, where she died peacefully on September 8, 2022, Abode2 looks back at the many houses of Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II was the first British monarch born in a private residence instead of a palace. Throughout her extraordinary 96 years, Queen Elizabeth’s homes ranged from a town house in London’s Mayfair neighbourhood to the grandest residences owned by the Crown. Though most monarchs live their entire lives in castles and palaces, the late queen was not born expecting to ascend to the throne. In fact, she was the first British monarch born in a private home. Her early days were spent living in grand but not technically palatial surroundings, and she had a somewhat normal childhood until her father unexpectedly became King in 1936.

Buckingham Palace

The late Queen’s living quarters at Buckingham Palace included more than 50 royal and guest bedrooms, plus 188 staff bedrooms. From her crowning in 1953 until the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, Buckingham Palace in London served as her main residence. At that point, she decamped for Windsor Castle, and while this was supposed to be temporary, she never stayed the night at Buckingham Palace again before her death on September 8, 2022.

As far as architectural marvels are concerned, Buckingham Palace is among the top of list. Considering its 775 rooms, 78 baths, 1,514 doors, and 40,000-plus lightbulbs, the structure exudes opulence. And unlike many European castles, this regal dwelling is very much a living, breathing being. Buckingham Palace is so popular that even the guards who stand at their gate have their own emoji.

Balmoral Castle

The Queen's love of her home in Balmoral in Royal Deeside was well known. She spent most summers at the 50,000-acre country estate in Aberdeenshire, usually with her beloved husband Philip and family by her side. Surrounded by countryside, Balmoral Castle is where she spent many a happy holiday - from visiting with her grandparents King George V and Queen Mary as a small child, to the final months of her life.

The castle itself is an example of Scottish baronial architecture, and is classified by Historic Environment Scotland as a category A listed building. The new castle was completed in 1856 and the old castle demolished shortly afterwards.

Balmoral has been one of the residences of the British Royal Family since 1852, when the estate and its original castle were bought from the Farquharson family by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband. The house was then found to be too small and the current Balmoral Castle was commissioned.

It remains private property of the Queen and is not part of the Crown Estate. It is a working estate, including grouse moors, forestry and farmland, as well as managed herds of deer, Highland cattle, and ponies.

The late Queen spent much of Prince Philip's last years with him at Balmoral - they remained there together during lockdown and spent their 73rd wedding anniversary there in November 2020.

This year, the Queen travelled to Balmoral on July 21 and, for the first time, had audiences with her outgoing and incoming Prime Ministers there rather than at Buckingham Palace.

Sandringham Estate

Privately owned by the late Queen Elizabeth II, the 20,000-acre Sandringham Estate has been in the royal family for more than a century and will now pass to King Charles III.

Sandringham House has a Grade II listing. The Queen used to stay there from Christmas until mid-February most years, with close members of the royal family joining her for the festive season.

Windsor Castle

After the death of the Duke of Edinburgh in April 2021, the Queen announced a permanent move to Windsor Castle, where she and the Duke had spent lockdown together.

The 900-year-old fortress was previously used as her weekend escape from 775-room Buckingham Palace. With 1,000 rooms, it is the largest occupied castle in the world.

The Queen was distraught when a fire broke out at the castle in 1992, destroying 115 rooms and nine state rooms. Artwork was saved by groups of staff but the fire was catastrophic for the palace’s interiors and structure

The Duke of Edinburgh played a key role in the restoration of Windsor Castle, which had not been insured, with works costing around £70 million in today’s money — and largely funded by entrance fees to the estate as well as Buckingham Palace.

The royal family’s property moves have been of huge significance in the last few years — notably Prince William and Catherine’s recent relocation to Windsor to be nearer to the Queen and their children’s new school — yet none will be bigger than the move now faced by the King and Queen Consort as they are expected to make Buckingham Palace their official London home in time.

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