Daniela Elser: Meghan and Harry set to miss out on most expensive house in London

Harry and Meghan appear to be the biggest losers in the royal real estate business. Photo / AP


Over the two weeks and changes since Her Majesty’s death, there have been many worries: worries about what might happen to her beloved dogs, her $700 million fortune, and her vast stash of tiaras. (They go to Prince Andrew and who knows, respectively, but absolutely not to Prince Andrew.)

But will no one think of the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of real estate in their portfolio?

As the UK slowly adjusted to this royal deal and the arrival of Charles III. accustomed, the new sovereign will eventually have to whip out his infamous leaky fountain pen and decide whether to get his family members to play the real estate equivalent of music chairs. with dozens of great houses now at his sole disposal.

One of Charles' first royal duties will be managing the Crown's vast real estate portfolio.  Photo / AP
One of Charles’ first royal duties will be managing the Crown’s vast real estate portfolio. Photo / AP

The facts are pretty amazing. The Crown Estate owns dozens of significant estates and homes, generally given to family members, along with the more than 140 grace and favor homes that have been carved out across the UK (some estimates put the number at more than 200 homes) . are generally held by loyal retainers and the more distant branches of the House of Windsor.

The main Crown estates within the King’s jurisdiction, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, include: Buckingham Palace (with apartments for Prince Andrew and Edward); Clarence House, where Charles and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, currently live; St. James’s Palace (the London residence of Princess Anne, Princess Beatrice and Princess Alexandra); Kensington Palace (home to the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and the Prince and Princess Michael of Kent) with Ivy Cottage, Wren House and Nottingham Cottage; Thatched lodge in Richmond Park, long occupied by Princess Alexandra; Windsor Great Park estate, Windsor Castle, Prince Andrew’s Royal Lodge, Prince Edward’s 120-room Bagshot Park, Frogmore House, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Frogmore Cottage, the Prince and Queen’s Adelaide Cottage Princess of Wales and the Gothic Revival include Fort Belvedere; the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Dumfries House and the Castle of Mey in Scotland; Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland; Tamarisk House on the Isles of Scilly in Cornwall and Llwynywermod in Wales.

Next there are the estates owned personally by the Queen and now owned by Charles: Balmoral Castle in Scotland, which also includes Birkhall, Craigowan Lodge and Tam-Na-Ghar; and the Sandringham Estate, which also includes Anmer Hall, Wood Farm and York Cottage.

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(Princess Anne’s Gatcombe Park estate, bought by the Queen as a wedding present, is privately owned and her children Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall live with their families in houses on the estate.)

Windsor Castle is just one of the great royal estates in all of Britain.  Photo / AP
Windsor Castle is just one of the great royal estates in all of Britain. Photo / AP

Now, with Charles at the helm, as is often the case with royal whirlwind, there are those who can pick up some serious new digs and those, particularly friends of convicted sex offenders or Montecito-based podcast ancestors, who will lose out.

Take Clarence House, the Regency whopper designed by John Nash, which stands on the Mall and right next to St James’s Palace.

It is currently the home of the King and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, but they will be moving into the monarchy’s headquarters, also known as Buckingham Palace, at some point in the near future. (The 300-plus-year-old palace underwent a $628 million restoration over 10 years that may affect the timing.)

Before the Megxit, when California was still somewhere the royal family would go on official tours when they felt like topping up their Mustique tan or playing polo, Clarence House was reportedly “designated” (but “never agreed upon) as a London home ‘) Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, a former courtier told the Times.

Which makes perfect sense. William and Kate, Prince and Princess of Wales, already have a four-story Kensington Palace apartment with nine bathrooms, and even with three kids, a dog, a nanny, and enough tennis racquets for a small nation-state to have a hit, they’re retiring an don’t need any more space.

But with the Sussexes long gone, the Sovereign now faces a major challenge as to what to do with the massive beast, which if it ever came to market would have to be one of London’s most expensive homes.

What’s particularly tricky for Charles is that since Harry can’t practice his downward-facing dog, there’s no one for Clarence House to obviously go to. (Given that Clarence House, like Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, and Windsor Castle, is owned by the Crown, he can’t liquidate any of them for any hard cash, either.)

The next HRHs in the line of succession are the York duo, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and it seems unlikely that either or both would receive such a significant property as non-working members of the royal family. (It also begs the question who would pay for this, since both have jobs but likely neither can raise the money to afford paying the large staff the estate requires. And her father probably could, too not given the pony to raise the money, he is essentially on house arrest and can no longer roam the Caucasus fooling around with autocrats.)

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One of the topics I’m particularly interested in how Charles is dealing with is his brother’s occupation of the 31-room Royal Lodge. Formerly the Queen Mother’s home, Andrew took over the property in 2003, paying $1.7 million for a 75-year lease (which works out to about $420 a week) and spending about $12.7 million on renovations, including fittings an indoor pool.

Will Charles keep letting Andrew enjoy a plum plot?  Photo / AP
Will Charles keep letting Andrew enjoy a plum plot? Photo / AP

Since 2008, the place has also been home to his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, and any unsold QVC juicers she may still have hanging around. (All of these spaces gave her a lot of variety in terms of backdrops for her really wacky Instagram videos.)

So will Charles continue to let Andrew enjoy such a plum lot? It’s not that the royal family needs the property, but it’s the looks of the matter. Time and time again, Her Majesty stepped in to protect her supposed favorite child, a man who clearly saw no problem in enjoying the generosity of a convicted child molester.

But will the new king keep the same line? Or could we see King Charles step in and eject Andrew and Fergie from the Royal Lodge to a smaller estate in what should be a very popular descent?

On the other hand, if he did, what should he do with Royal Lodge?

(Even before the Queen’s death there seemed to be vacant lots begging the lowest rung, tiny cottages on the Sandrigham and Balmoral estates available for rent, including on Airbnb.)

Next, one of the biggest unknowns would have to be what he will do with the Sandringham House in Norfolk, which an unnamed Toff memorably told the Times in 2019 is the “ugliest house in Britain”.

The 20,000-acre estate is now personally owned by Charles, like Balmoral in Scotland, but he already has Highgrove House, his stately country pile, where he likes to spend his weekends pressing flowers and coaxing Camilla away from the bar wagon. (I’m kidding, of course. That’s what minions are for.)

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Likewise, the Waleses already have their own 10-bedroom hideaway in Norfolk, Anmer Hall, which is on the Sandringham estate. Of course they could upgrade to the big house, but then their only 10 bedrooms would remain empty.

The Prince and Princess of Wales will likely one day move to bigger digs - much bigger digs - in Windsor.  Photo / AP
The Prince and Princess of Wales will likely one day move to bigger digs – much bigger digs – in Windsor. Photo / AP

And the prince and princess are probably moving to bigger digs – much bigger digs – back in Windsor. Though they only moved into their new four-bedroom home, Adelaide Cottage, in August, it’s widely believed they’ll eventually trade the positively cute house for the 1,000-plus-bedroom chateau that’s now vacant. (OK, sure they will indeed move into the Queen’s private apartments, where she and Prince Philip have settled with a small bevy of trusted staff during the pandemic, but it still contains very large reception rooms and is unlikely to be nitpicking.)

Until William and Kate decide on Upsticks, that too will remain empty.

(They’re reportedly not making a move anytime soon, as their focus is on giving their three young children as normal a childhood as possible. They’re raising them in the world’s oldest inhabited castle, where the armor of Henry VIII sits over the place, perfect to wear, doesn’t exactly scream average now does it?)

For Charles, managing those deckchairs is tricky business, as handing out large estates and some of London’s most prized real estate like candy would hardly go down well during the biggest cost-of-living crisis in a generation. On the other hand, leaving them empty would seem terribly wasteful. King problems, right?

Daniela Elser says think of the Sussexes, who now have the rarest thing for members of the royal family: a mortgage.  Photo / AP
Daniela Elser says think of the Sussexes, who now have the rarest thing for members of the royal family: a mortgage. Photo / AP

While the king ponders this hundred-million-dollar conundrum, spare a thought to the Sussexes, who now have the rarest thing a royal family can ever have: a mortgage. In 2020, they bought a $20 million mansion in Montecito and took out a $14.2 million loan, according to Variety. (They, like the Waleses, also pay rent for their house on the Windsor estate.)

If they had stayed with Team Royal they would currently be in line for an unexpected real estate win and possibly acquiring not only Clarence House but probably a much larger country estate as well. (Frogmore Cottage? I don’t know her.)

On the other hand, Harry and Meghan can boast of one thing none of his relatives can: they can never be kicked out by his father on a whim. That might be priceless.

• Daniela Elser is a writer and royal expert with over 15 years’ experience working with a range of leading Australian media outlets.

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