Eleven years ago, William and Kate’s frugal life was one that many celebrated. Shelling out just £750-a-month on a rented farmhouse in Anglesey, Wales, there was something particularly refreshing about the then newlyweds’ desire for a less fanciful life. At the very least, it stood out amongst the more extravagant Royal Family members.
So when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced they would be swapping the simple life for one ensconced in the country’s most expensive zip code, there was understandably some controversy when it was revealed that the move would also be coming with an eye-watering renovation bill to be picked up by the British taxpayer.
Neglected and run-down, Apartment 1A at Kensington Palace required a number of major changes and updates for it to be brought up to liveable standards (and allow the couple to add their own personal touches). In 2014, the Sovereign Grant confirmed that it cost over $5.4 million (£4.5m) to complete.
At the time, press aides told outlets, including myself, that the costs were a necessary investment as the couple planned to use the property as a permanent base to work and raise a family. This house, they assured, would be their forever home.
Though the Cambridges had another residence in Norfolk—a property on the Sandringham Estate for school holidays and escaping the city—the $1.8 million (£1.5m) renovation costs for Anmer Hall, a wedding gift from the Queen, were all paid for privately.
In 2019, the duke and duchess added a further $1.2 million (£1 million) to their Sovereign Grant-funded renovation costs at Kensington Palace by installing a new driveway. It was a figure that left many scratching their heads, but was mostly ignored by sections of the press who were more focused on how much Harry and Meghan would be spending on their new crib.
But despite the palace promise, the Cambridges’ time at “KP” has come to an end after nine years. Later this month they will move to a new abode in Windsor, for a life “away from the goldfish bowl” in London and what a source tells me is an effort to give their children “as normal a life as possible”.
It’s a decision that has raised a few eyebrows, particularly at a time when the country is dealing with a major cost of living crisis. Picking up a third home, especially when one of them cost the public so much to renovate, is hardly the norm for regular folk.
Still, Adelaide Cottage comes at no expense to anyone but the couple, I’m told. Rather than buy, the couple have chosen to privately rent. Any desired cosmetic work or refurbishments will be paid from their own pockets. (It remains to be seen how the duke and duchess will travel to and from London—their love for helicopter trips, which the British press prefer to turn a blind eye to, are not just an unfair cost to the public but also go completely against William’s environmental concerns).
Though London was originally the dream, it became increasingly apparent to the duke and duchess that living in the middle of Kensington Gardens may not be the best place for Prince George, nine, Princess Charlotte, seven, and Prince Louis, four, as they grow up. “They thought about moving to [their home in] Norfolk, but as active senior working royals they could never be that far away from London, so that’s where Windsor came into the picture,” says the source.
Nestled on Windsor’s Home Park Estate, the four-bedroom Grade II-listed property will be where the couple live while their children continue their school years. It’s certainly safer, too. Though they were protected within the walls of their London residence, the times George, Charlotte or Louis wanted to step outside of them required a full-on security operation. Now, they will be able to run (or ride) around the 655-acre land to their heart’s content, thanks to the Crown Estate’s well-established on-site security.
The move to a smaller property will also see the end of live-in staff. Full-time nanny Maria Borallo, their housekeeper and chef will all receive private accommodation elsewhere on the estate—paid for by William and Kate.
So where does that leave Kensington Palace? When the Sussexes announced they would be keeping Frogmore Cottage as their British base after moving to California, the chorus of fury across the British press was loud. This time, not so much.
Perhaps it helps that Apartment 1A will still play a significant role. As well as being home to their official offices, William and Kate will regularly be in and out of their London base (their diaries for the rest of the year, at least, are early proof of that). It’s also the home where the couple plan to return to when their children grow up. “Apartment 1A,” says a palace source, “will always be their official residence.”
As the couple begin moving their belongings to Windsor, next week palace officials plan to formally announce details of the private co-ed school in Berkshire where the three Cambridge children will study.
While it may never be a truly “normal” existence for the children, especially Prince George, one can’t blame the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for trying to get as close to one as possible. After all, with an increasing number of eyes on the monarchy and its future in Britain, the gaze is stronger than ever before.
Watch: Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will not have their live-in nanny at new Windsor residence