Ask any random non-British citizen where the Queen of England lives, and they might respond with Buckingham Palace in London, but most have no idea where the royal family resides. That's not unusual considering how many properties belong to the Crown. When it comes to the urban palace of William and Kate or the charming cottage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the average layperson knows far less. This list seeks to shed some light on the various properties owned and inhabited by Queen Elizabeth and her extensive royal family.
There are dozens of amazing castles, palaces, cottages, and tracts of lands owned by Queen Elizabeth II and her family. Anglophiles can brush up on their royal knowledge with this overview of the many places the royals call home, when they occupied them, and whether or not they occupy most of their time there. After all, why bother spending all of your days in one castle when you can summer in another?
Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, spend most of their time at Buckingham Palace. The palace, originally called Buckingham House, was built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 on a plot of land in the City of Westminster, London. King George III purchased the property in 1761 as a residence for Queen Charlotte, and it became known as the Queen's House. In 1837, it became the official residence of the monarchy following the ascension of Queen Victoria. Since that time, it has remained the primary residence of the monarch of Great Britain. The palace is relatively large, consisting of 775 individual rooms, including 19 staterooms, numerous bedrooms and offices, and a total of 78 bathrooms.
While the queen and Philip spend the majority of their time at Buckingham Palace, they often head to Windsor Castle for the weekend. Windsor Castle was built in the 11th century in Windsor, where it occupies some 13 acres of land. It has been home to the reigning monarch of Great Britain since the time of Henry I. As such, it stands as the longest-occupied palace in Europe.
Although Buckingham Palace serves as the principal residence of the royal couple, Windsor Castle has been used for numerous state events and has hosted dignitaries including former US President Barack Obama, South African President Thabo Mbeki, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and many others. The castle survived the German Blitz and was used as a refuge for the royal family at the time. It also survived a devastating 15-hour fire in 1992, but was repaired and remains one of England's most popular tourist attractions.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip don't spend their entire year at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. During August and September, the royal couple moves to their home at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The castle is located in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, near the small town of Crathie. The British royal family has occupied the residence since 1852 when it was purchased by Prince Albert for his wife, Queen Victoria. Given the nature of this purchase, the estate is the private property of the royal family and does not fall under the Crown Estate.
The Balmoral Estate is quite large; it sits upon 50,000 acres of land. When the home was first purchased, it was deemed too small for Victoria's needs. The current buildings were commissioned and completed in 1856 by architect William Smith of Aberdeen.
While the queen is in residence in August and September, the grounds are closed to the public; however, visitors are welcome between April and the end of July. Much of the castle remains off-limits to tourists, but visitors can enter and view the majestic ballroom.
Charles, Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, reside at Clarence House in Westminster, London. Clarence House is adjacent to St James's Palace; it shares the palace's impressive garden. The couple moved into the residence in 2002 following the passing of the Queen Mother.
Prince William and his brother Harry also lived in Clarence House as young adults. The house was originally built in 1827 for the Duke of Clarence, who became King William IV in 1830. He called Clarence House his home instead of St James's Palace, which he considered too small for his needs.
Various royals resided in Clarence House until WWII, when it suffered extensive damage in the Blitz. In 1942, it was converted into a headquarters for the Red Cross and St John Ambulance Brigade. When the conflict ended, it returned to royal hands and became the residence of Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, who moved from the home in 1953 when she assumed the throne.
Clarence House is open to the public for only one month each summer. The home consists of four floors with a handful of rooms viewable by visitors.
William, Duke of Cambridge, and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, live with their three children, Prince George, Prince Louis, and Princess Charlotte in Apartment 1A at Kensington Palace. The palace is located in Kensington Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London. The royal family has used the property as a residence since the 17th century, but much of the grounds are open to the public, including the staterooms. The mansion was built by Sir George Coppin in 1605 and was acquired by King William and Queen Mary in the summer of 1689. Since that time, the palace grounds and various buildings have been expanded and refined.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge currently reside in Apartment 1A, a 20-room, four-story apartment previously occupied by Princess Margaret. The couple moved into the property in 2013 following a renovation reportedly costing £1 million. The Daily Mail says, "it boasts generous living space, including five reception rooms, three main bedrooms, dressing rooms and bathrooms, a night and day nursery, staff bedrooms and 'ancillary' rooms."
The couple has entertained numerous dignitaries and celebrities in their home, including former US President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.