It’s official (ish) – the Cambridges are set to move to Windsor this summer. The Times reported over the weekend that William and Kate are due to move into Adelaide Cottage on the Windsor estate, with their three children enrolled in a Berkshire school this autumn.
This marks a third home for the family as they will retain Kensington Palace as their London base and Anmer Hall in Norfolk. Their new home, Adelaide Cottage, is extremely close to Windsor Castle, where the Queen is now permanently based, and offers private entrances to and from the Castle. The location, in Berkshire, is also close to where Kate’s parents and brother live, so in many ways this move can be seen as bringing the Cambridges closer to family on both sides.
Also on the Windsor estate is The Duke of York, who lives in the Royal Lodge. There was some discussion online of whether or not he would vacate it so the Cambridges would move in, but I always considered it unlikely Andrew would be willing to give that residence up. He currently shares it (at least part time) with his ex-wife, Fergie, as the house is massive enough they can essentially live in separate quarters. So, Andrew is staying put, though there was a rumor a few days ago as to whether he would be installed in Scotland somewhere for the time being to keep him out of the public eye. If I see more, we can dig into that further.
Nearby in Surrey there is also The Earl and Countess of Wessex who live in Bagshot Park (11 miles from Windsor Castle) with their two children.
And finally there is Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, who have recently been living in Frogmore Cottage with their son, August. The Brooksbanks vacated the cottage over Jubilee weekend when Harry and Meghan were in town (who still “own” it and in fact renewed the lease for another year) – it’s now unclear whether they will be moving back in or looking for another residence. For context, Princess Beatrice and her family live in apartments in St. James’s Palace in London, but are in the process of renovating a private residence in the Cotswolds that they purchased themselves. It’s possible, if not likely, that the couple will retain their apartment as a London base, but live primarily in the country. Eugenie could follow suit or work to find another suitable property on the Windsor estate.
Rumor has it that she was actually eyeing Adelaide Cottage for a while, but naturally the Cambridges won out. It’s an interesting choice – the cottage was built in 1831 for William IV’s wife, Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen. Later on, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert frequently visited it with their children, and Queen Victoria sometimes went by on her own for a more private breakfast or tea when staying at Windsor Castle. Her famously beloved dog, Dash, is also buried on its grounds.
Late on, in the late 1940s and early 1950s it was used by Group Captain Peter Townsend and his family. Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were frequent guests, and it’s now believed that his romance with Margaret may well have begun – or at least had roots in – during their time together riding out on the Windsor estate.
Since then it’s been used by a distant cousin of the Queen and was reportedly renovated as recently as 2015. In 2018 it was one of the residence bandied about as a potential home for Harry and Meghan before they ended up going with Frogmore Cottage, the latter apparently being larger. Which is why I find this to be an interesting choice for William and Kate at this point – the house apparently has only four bedrooms. With three children, that doesn’t leave room for guests. There’s apparently a two-bedroom “lodge” next door where presumably the nanny and maybe a housekeeper will live? But all told, this is certainly a scaled down residence in comparison to Kensington Palace and Anmer Hall.
The other options on the Windsor estate are Fort Belvedere, which was used by Edward VIII when he was the Prince of Wales (and briefly king), and Frogmore House. Both would require extensive renovations, which would not only delay the move by at least another year, but also almost definitely lead to negative headlines about William and Kate taking on a third house. And while there’s been some chatter about this online, all told, due to the house’s modesty and the lack of needed refurbishments, this news cycle has been pretty relaxed. If anything, it’s been a positive one since it underlines William moving to be closer to the Queen.
As for the timing, well, that’s notable for a couple different reasons. Prince George and Princess Charlotte have been enrolled at Thomas’s Battersea, a co-ed school close to KP. This autumn, they are expected to move full-time into a Berkshire-based school where Prince Louis will join them. As such, we will likely have more first-day-school pictures in September, even if they’re snaps that the Cambridges release instead of an actual photo opp as we saw with George and Charlotte a few years back. I would imagine a very real consideration was ensuring that wherever they ended up in Windsor, it happened this summer to ensure that Louis started the next leg of his education where they meant to end it.
Another factor to consider is the proximity of Eton College, where William and Harry attended secondary school, and where at least William had a positive experience. So far William and Kate have favored co-ed schools for their children, but I think it’s a distinct possibility that at least George will end up at Eton. Particularly if the Cambridges aren’t enthusiastic about boarding – the flexibility of living at Windsor means that either George can easily be a day student or visits home can be frequent.
The other timing note I will add is that it’s being reported that the Cambridges will move to the “big house” (Windsor Castle) when William is Prince of Wales. Frankly, that helps explain them taking on a primary residence of this size – this is likely only the reality of a couple more years, at most, as unfortunate as that may be.
And I have to say, the Cambridges using Windsor Castle as their home as Prince and Princess of Wales is not a move I saw coming. Mainly because Windsor Castle has always been one of the primary residences of the monarch. To be fair, it hasn’t clearly been articulated that Charles won’t also use it, but it’s been reported for a while that he has a very different view on how to manage crown properties. For example, a few years ago there was a story that he didn’t want to make the move from Clarence House to Buckingham Palace, and instead use the latter for only ceremonial occasions and office space. That was never confirmed, and in fact it’s now believed that he and Camilla *will* move to Buckingham Palace, but relegating Windsor to his heir is certainly in line with the “streamlined” thinking.
And longer-term, that indicates that William would then be well-positioned to operate along the same lines – use Windsor Castle as his base, while only using Buckingham Palace for public engagements, meetings, etc.
Which then, of course, begs the question, what becomes of Kensington Palace? KP has massive apartments – one is used by the Cambridges, one by the Gloucesters, and another used to house Diana, Princess of Wales (and Charles when they were married), but is now used for events and additional space. If the monarchy is streamlined so that only a monarch’s children are working members of the Royal Family – and maybe not even that, it really depends on where William (and Charles to an extent) nets out on that – then in the coming years, only Charlotte and Louis would be eligible for “royal residences.”
Frankly, it remains to be seen whether non-working royals like Beatrice and Eugenie continue to have access to apartments in St. James’s Palace or Windsor “cottages” under Charles.
In the meantime, this means that the next time Harry and Meghan *do* visit the UK, it will only be all the more the awkward if the families don’t get together….