The Queen has never liked it and Charles doesn’t want to live there. Could Prince Harry and Meghan Markle be shuttled into Buckingham Palace instead?
Prince Charles has been making plans for his accession to the throne – and they don’t, reportedly, include living at Buckingham Palace, London’s least desirable Royal home.
A story in The Sunday Times suggested that Charles would use the palace as “monarchy HQ” for official business, and allow for it to be open to visitors and tourists for longer than it currently is – three months during the summer when the Queen is at Balmoral.
The Times said that Charles “doesn’t see [Buckingham Palace] as a viable future home or a house that’s fit for purpose in the modern world. He feels its upkeep, both from a cost and environmental perspective, is not sustainable.”
The palace moved to contradict the report with a spokesman for Clarence House saying: “Buckingham Palace will remain the official London residence of the monarch,” but this has notably failed to convince anyone it means he will really be living there full time.
For example, Charles’s well-briefed biographer Penny Junor told the Daily Beast she suspects Charles will not move into Buckingham Palace.
“In my book I said I thought it was unlikely he would live in Buckingham Palace. It doesn’t fit with his vision for the future. A slimmed-down monarchy has got to address its property portfolio; all these palaces and castles are too much. The other fact is that they have made a lovely cozy house at Clarence House, and it is a much more livable-in place. Buckingham Palace is so huge, it is not a home, although I think it is quite possible that he will use it for official entertaining and housing visiting heads of state.”
No-one could blame Charles for wishing to stay on at the sumptuous home he and Camilla have created at Clarence House, just across the park in St James’, instead of moving to Buckingham Palace, which looks grand from the outside but is run down and mouse-infested. The roofs and walls are full of asbestos and buckets are often used to catch rainwater during heavy downpours.
A few years ago, Princess Anne, the Queen’s beloved daughter, was nearly killed getting out of a car in the inner courtyard of Buckingham Palace when a falling chunk of masonry narrowly missed her head.
Princess Anne brushed the incident off with the stiff upper lip that would be expected of the royal family’s most proficient horsewoman, but, for the Palace’s ‘men in grey’, Anne’s close shave became a very useful piece of ammunition in their long-running battle with the government about the need to undertake gigantic renovations at Buckingham Palace.
How would it look, they were able to suggest, if Her Majesty were injured, not by a terrorist bomb, but by the increasingly lethal conditions at Buck House?
The government always tried to argue the Queen should pay for the works, but she consistently resisted the demands, believing that Buckingham Palace isn’t in any real sense her family’s property. The palace, as her courtiers have long argued, isn’t hers the way other royal houses such as Sandringham, Balmoral and Windsor Castle are.
‘Buck House’ is used for all manner of official business, from investitures to fundraisers to garden parties and is open to the public for three months of the year.
The Queen lives in a relatively austere nine-room apartment within the Palace, which has 775 rooms. She has long paid for her own furnishings in the apartment.
In the end, the government gave in and a $500m, 10-year refurbishment program is now underway at the Palace.
The work will include replacing 100 miles of electrical cabling, some of which is up to 60 years old, 30 miles of water pipes, 6,500 electrical sockets, 5,000 light fittings, 2,500 radiators and 500 pieces of sanitary ware, according to a report in The Telegraph. The ancient piping system includes boilers dating from before the Second World War.
However, even this upgrade has reportedly failed to convince Charles that it would be a pleasant place to live.
The hospital-like appearance of the Palace is also is unlikely to appeal to Charles, a noted architecture boffin, on aesthetic grounds.
Originally built as a splendid townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham, it was acquired by George III for £21,000 in 1761. George added several new blocks to create the inner courtyard, an his son George IV went crazy with the gilding in the 1820s.
In 1847, the present-day public face of Buckingham Palace, the side that faces the Mall and from whose balcony the royals wave at their subjects on occasion, was built to the plans (largely) of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband.
Prince Charles relishes the prospect of moving in just as little as his mother did – but, unlike her, he is not a timid 20-something who, as viewers of the Netflix series The Crown will know, was bullied into moving in by Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
The Prince first floated turning the Palace into a ‘government hotel and center for events’ back in 1998 when he turned 50.
It seems likely that Charles will have some kind of official residence at the Palace when he is king, but it may be as little as a set of rooms used a few times a year.
The intriguing question then presents itself of what will happen to the Queen’s apartment.
It had been assumed the Prince Harry and Meghan (if they marry) would move into Clarence House when Charles moved out, but if Charles and Camilla dig in their heels, it may be that Meghan ends up the chatelaine of Buckingham Palace.
Well, she did say the other day in Vanity Fair, “I love a great love story.”
And the American girl who fell in love with a Prince and moved into Buckingham Palace? That would surely be the fairy story to end them all.