The collection of properties belonging to The Crown Estate are valued at £14.1bn, but only a few of these are occupied by members of the Royal Family, with even fewer numbering among the official residences of Queen Elizabeth II.
The Crown Estate not only provides homes and income to the British Royals, but also provides a return on investment for the taxpayer, with £329.4m going to the Treasury in 2018. But it is their close link to the private lives of Royals past and present that gives them their lucrative allure, and here we will look at the regal homes that have played host to some of the Queen’s most intimate moments.
The Base of Operations: Buckingham Palace, London
Right in the heart of the capital city, Buckingham Palace is perhaps the best-known of all the Royal residences – let alone those specific to the Queen – and has served as the official London headquarters of the reigning monarch since Queen Victoria set up home there in 1837. Despite having 775 rooms, Queen Elizabeth’s great-great-grandmother found the palace to be somewhat lacking, and added The Ballroom in 1855 – not only the largest room in the palace, but the largest room in London at the time of its construction. Today, the palace is used as the operational headquarters of the Royal Family, while its grounds and state rooms are used for a large number of Royal events and receptions.
The Country Retreat: Sandringham House, Norfolk
Sandringham provides a welcome respite from the bustle of city life for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, affording them a greater degree of privacy and distance from the administrative strains of Royal life. A private home of the British Monarchy since 1862, Sandringham has played a key role in a number of significant moments throughout Royal history – including the death of King Georve V, and serving as the location of the first ever Royal Christmas message. Today, the Royals still follow the tradition of celebrating Christmas at Sandringham – after which Prince Charles and his sons have, until recently, taken part in an annual Boxing Day shoot in the grounds of the Palace.
The Scottish Headquarters: Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
Standing at the end of Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile, the Queen’s Official Residence in Scotland is one of the most historically illustrious of all her properties, having originally served as a monastery in 1127, and since been home to Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie. King George V and Queen Mary held the first Royal garden party in the grounds of Holyroodhouse – a tradition the Queen still maintains today by hosting 8,000 guests during the June/July “Holyrood Week” which she spends at the palace each year.
The Summer Palace: Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire
Said to be Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite of all her homes, Balmoral is the private residence of the Queen and her family in Scotland. Originally bought by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria in 1852 – and then replaced with a larger version in 1856 – Balmoral is nestled within 20,000 hectares of land in Royal Deeside. Balmoral and its extensive grounds remain the Queen’s preferred location for relaxing during the British summer.
The Irish Headquarters: Hillsborough Castle
Unusually, the Queen shares her Official Residence in Northern Ireland with Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State, and it is also used as a base by any other members of the Royal Family who happen to be visiting. The Castle dates back to 1770 and sits amid 100 acres of carefully landscaped gardens, but is one of the less frequently-visited of the Queen’s Royal residences.
The Weekend Home: Windsor Castle, Berkshire
That Windsor is the Queen’s favoured weekend retreat somewhat belies the scale of its grandeur; as the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world, it is very much – in a historical sense, at least – the jewel in The Crown Estate. Nearly 1000 years old, Windsor Castle was built in 1070 by William the Conqueror, its location chosen for its relative closeness to London – a facet which, even before the advent of motorised travel, meant that its occupants were never more than a day’s marching away from the capital. Today, the Queen celebrates Easter from Windsor every year, living there from March to April – throughout which she hosts numerous parties, entertains guests and takes part in the Easter Sunday service.