History of Sandringham House (PHOTOS)

The Queen’s Christmas Estate

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Built in 1870, Sandringham House has been the private home of four generations of royal families. Set on an estate of nearly 20,000 acres—59 of which are manicured gardens—Sandringham is said to be one of Queen Elizabeth’s favorite retreats.

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Just a normal day hanging around the family estate. This photograph was taken to show the informal life of Prince Charles shortly before he was invested as the Prince of Wales by his mother.

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King George V enjoyed Sandringham so much that he once remarked, “Dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere in the world.” King George gave the first royal speech to the nation by radio from the estate, starting a tradition that would last for decades.

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The vast swaths of woodlands on the property are open to visitors and allow hunting. Here, King Edward VII is enjoying some shooting. Since 1952 more than 2 million trees have been planted at Sandringham, including 300 “truffle trees.”

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The estate is also a working farm. Sandringham is best known for its apples—the orchard was first planted by King George V—but other crops are grown as well, including black currants, wheat, rye, and barley. Here, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret are surveying the crops with their parents shortly before the end of World War II. Today, the estate employs roughly 200 people, many of them farmers.

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Traditionally, the royal family spends Christmas at Sandringham, a practice that dates back several generations. Here, Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Prince William, and Prince Harry are on their way back from Christmas services at the church of St. Mary Magdalene. The church, which boasts a silver altar and a Florentine marble font, dates to the 16th century.

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Just days before a woman’s body was found on the property, the queen’s expanding family attends a Christmas service at St. Mary’s Church. The occasion was closely documented by the worldwide press, eager to see how Prince William’s new wife, Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge, would handle her first royal Christmas on the grounds of Sandringham.

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Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip often attend services at the Church at Castle Rising near Sandringham.

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A police officer stands at the gates to Sandringham House as the Prince of Wales presents campaign medals to the Second Battalion, the Mercian Regiment, for service in Afghanistan. Police presence has been heightened at the estate in recent days as investigators try to piece together the events that led to a woman’s body being found on the property.

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Sandringham was once described as “the most comfortable house in England.” The property also has a museum that houses an eclectic mix of memorabilia: a 1939 Merryweather fire engine, tiny Indian doll dancers, and pearls given to the queen, to name a few.