Vanity Fair recently published an interesting article on “the saga of royal rents and monarchs as landlords.” There is an interesting story about the mistresses of various kings and the various large apartments or estates they were given. There’s also some interesting stuff about the more modern royal real estate drama and how King Charles is going to make some big changes, especially with grace and favor bestowed houses and apartments on distant relatives. Of course, they mention how he evicted the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from Frogmore Cottage, which remains one of Charles’s most rotten moves. Especially since, as this article makes clear, most Windsors live in houses they didn’t pay for at all. Some highlights (mostly quotes from Tom Quinn, author of Kensington Palace: An Intimate Memoir and Scandals of the Royal Palaces):
All royals rebuild and restore their gifted real estate: “There’s also always been this crazy habit of every new royal resident insisting that their palace or house must be completely renovated, even rebuilt, before they can decide to move,” Quinn explains. “When Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon moved into their Kensington Palace apartment, large amounts of Georgian fixtures were destroyed, Margaret insisted, according to one of her staff, that she had no intention of using a bathroom that had never been used by anyone else before.”
Homes of Grace and Favor: The near-constant issues over royal real estate have grown increasingly tense in recent decades with the press exposing the injustice of “grace and favor residences” granted to family, loyal friends and servants at the monarch’s discretion. “In the 1970s, there were over 200 grace and favor apartments and houses, dozens at Hampton Court Palace and at Balmoral, at Sandringham, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Clarence House,” Quinn notes. Things came to a head in the 1990s when it was revealed that Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, who are non-working royals, were paying very little to live in Kensington Palace.
What happened to the Kents: To calm the furor, Queen Elizabeth II decided to raise the couple’s rent. “The Duke and Duchess of Kent realized they suddenly had to go from paying rent in the form of peppercorns for their grace and favor on their Kensington flat to paying market rent. From paying around £69 a week for their five-bedroom apartment, they were forced to pay around £60,000 a year,” Quinn writes. “It’s fair enough, perhaps given at the time, the 1990s, the duke was only 49th in line to the throne.”
Charles will not be as generous as his mother: According to Quinn, there are still more than 100 residences of grace and favor controlled by King Carlos III, but apparently he won’t be as generous as his mother. “Charles is fully intent on curbing the sprawl on royal homes that characterized previous generations of royals, and a staffer told me he is determined to further reduce the number of grace and favor apartments,” Quinn says.
Charles’ ultimate goal: As his ultimatums to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Prince Andrew attest, the King believes that family disputes over royal property are out of control and bad for both public relations and the bottom line. There have also been reports that the king will eventually ask more members of the royal family to pay or vacate their homes, and in turn rent them out to outsiders at market rates. He wants members of the royal family to stop behaving with such an air of entitlement, especially when it comes to housing. An aide told me that even Charles can’t understand why each new generation has to dismantle everything in their apartments before they are ready to move to either Kensington or Windsor and start over at great expense.
William and Kate: “William and Kate are as guilty as anyone when it comes to this kind of thing,” says Quinn. “Their apartment in Kensington was pretty much rebuilt when they moved in and now includes an underground bunker.” (The outlets report that the apartment includes a panic room and an escape tunnel.)
Royal caretakers: “Charles also wants to emphasize that each generation of royals is, if you will, simply a caretaker when it comes to housing – they are there to keep houses and palaces in good repair for the next generation and for the public,” Quinn explains.
While Kensington Palace Apartment 1 really needed a major overhaul, they had to remove asbestos, Quinn is right that William and Kate were way too excessive with the amount of money they spent renovating and restoring not just the KP apartment. 1, but also Anmer Hall. Kate trashed Anmer, which had already been recently renovated. I remember how she ripped out a perfectly beautiful kitchen. What was also crazy about KP reno was that the PR around the whole thing was that the money was worth it because KP would be their permanent home and they would be based in London. Instead, they quickly moved to Anmer for years, and then moved to Windsor, where they seek to remove Prince Andrew from the Royal Lodge. You know Kate is eager to spend millions renovating the Royal Lodge as well.
The eviction of Frogmore Cottage makes even less sense when you consider how many royals and royal neighbors pay next to nothing for their palatial estates and luxurious apartments. The Sussexes literally paid the cost of renovating that dilapidated shack AND they paid the rent. And Charles’ grand plan is to evict the Sussexes and “give” Frogmore to Andrew for free. Still, I can’t wait to see how many enemies Charles makes when he starts evicting all of his relatives, all the while giving William and Kate his sixth, seventh, and eighth home.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Netflix, Instar, Kensington Royal social media.