One is downsizing: The Queen and Prince Philip move in to Royal bolthole at Sandringham after leaving Balmoral more than three weeks early before Her Majesty’s return to work in October
- Queen and Prince Philip will leave Balmoral three weeks early for Sandringham
- Palace officials in the process of creating ‘bubble’ between Norfolk and Windsor
- Monarch will return to castle in October and ‘commute’ to Buckingham Palace
Many couples have found spending so much more time together in lockdown a strain.
But that clearly doesn’t apply to the Queen and Prince Philip.
Despite having been alone together more in recent months than at any stage of their 72-year marriage – because of the enforced curtailment of Her Majesty’s royal duties – they have decided to share even more quiet time.
They will leave the Highland grandeur of Balmoral, their traditional summer retreat, more than three weeks early for the intimate surroundings of Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate, where Philip has a five-bedroom home.
Palace officials are in the process of creating a special ‘bubble’ between Sandringham and Windsor Castle.
The Queen and Prince Philip (pictured) will leave the Highland grandeur of Balmoral, their traditional summer retreat, more than three weeks early for the intimate surroundings of Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate
This is so that when the Queen, 94, returns to the castle in early October and ‘commutes’ to her limited duties at Buckingham Palace, she and Philip can still travel between their residences to see each other.
Since he retired from public duties in 2017, Philip, 99, has preferred to live in Norfolk, where mod cons – including a new kitchen – have been installed to make Wood Farm more comfortable.
Before coronavirus, he spent his time there quietly reading, walking, corresponding with friends and keeping in touch with some of the charities he supports.
Sometimes family and friends visited, but otherwise he enjoyed the solitary life, except when the Queen stayed for the occasional weekend.
Although the couple’s decision to live apart for large swathes of the year raised eyebrows among some, the monarch believes her husband has earned his belated retirement.
Pictured: Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, where the Duke of Edinburgh spends much of his time
Palace officials are in the process of creating a special ‘bubble’ between Sandringham and Windsor Castle
But sources have suggested the Queen and Philip are now enjoying their unexpected time together so much that it led to the change of plans. ‘It’s rather sweet,’ said one.
Although not confirmed by palace officials, it is understood the Queen could be at Wood Farm for up to a month.
The unassuming red brick cottage, with its spartan furnishings and cosy open fires, has for years been a bolthole from stuffy palace formality.
Normally the Queen, would remain at Balmoral until the second week in October before returning to divide her time between Windsor Castle – now her main residential base and where she and Philip spent more than four months isolating during lockdown – and Buckingham Palace for official engagements.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived at Balmoral (pictured), in Aberdeenshire, at the start of August and have enjoyed visits from family in the weeks since. Pictured: Stock image
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will now spend at least two weeks ‘privately’ at Sandringham (pictured)
The couple intend to fly down from Scotland next week, freeing up Balmoral, which will open for public tours again on October 3 to raise revenue which goes towards the running of the estate.
Royal insiders say that the traditional Christmas at Sandringham they so enjoy together ‘is set in stone’ unless there is a dramatic change in national policy as a result of Covid-19.
‘This is something that they have been planning for a while and will enable them to create a new bubble in order to continue to see each other while Her Majesty commutes between Windsor and Buckingham Palace for official duties,’ the source said.
Buckingham Palace confirmed yesterday: ‘Her Majesty’s intention is to return to Windsor Castle in October.’
Fond echoes of her grandfather
The Queen’s stay at Wood Farm with Prince Philip echoes a fondly remembered chapter in her grandfather’s life.
York Cottage on the Sandringham Estate – a relatively modest property by royal standards – was a favourite home of George V and Queen Mary.
They were given it as a wedding present when they married in 1893 and became the Duke and Duchess of York.
Pictured: King George V with Queen Mary
Their title was then used to rename what had previously been called ‘Bachelor’s Cottage’. It had served as a guesthouse for male visitors when the main house at Sandringham was full.
George and Mary stayed there for more than 30 years until his mother, Queen Alexandra, died at Sandringham in 1925. The property is now used as estate offices.
Wood Farm had more poignant connections for George and Mary.
It was where their youngest son Prince John – the ‘Lost Prince’ – who had epilepsy and learning difficulties was sent to live with his nanny to shield him from the public gaze. He died in 1919 aged 13.
York Cottage on the Sandringham Estate (pictured) – a relatively modest property by royal standards – was a favourite home of George V and Queen Mary