Why Kate and William are moving to Windsor – despite spending taxpayer millions on Kensington Palace

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge pose for a photograph as they visit Sportsid House at the 2022 Commonwealth Games on August 02, 2022 in Birmingham, England. The Duchess became the Patron of SportsAid in 2013, Team England Futures programme is a partnership between SportsAid, Sport England and Commonwealth Games England which will see around 1,000 talented young athletes and aspiring support staff given the opportunity to attend the Games and take a first-hand look behind-the-scenes. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
William and Kate, pictured with daughter Charlotte on their most recent engagement at the Commonwealth Games in early August, are moving to Windsor. (Getty Images)

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.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge speaks with US President Barack Obama as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge speaks with First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama and Prince Harry in the Drawing Room of Apartment 1A Kensington Palace as they attend a dinner on April 22, 2016 in London, England.  The President and his wife are currently on a brief visit to the UK where they attended lunch with HM Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and later will have dinner with Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace. Mr Obama visited 10 Downing Street this afternoon and held a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron where he stated his case for the UK to remain inside the European Union. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Kate and William photographed in their Kensington Palace apartment with Harry and Barak and Michelle Obama in 2016. (Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 08: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) A general view of the State Apartments of Kensington Palace and Apartment 1A which is covered in scaffolding whilst refurbishment works are being carried out on January 08, 2013 in London, England. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge are scheduled to take up residence in apartment 1A of the Palace in 2013. (Photo by Indigo/Getty Images)
A general view of the State Apartments of Kensington Palace and Apartment 1A covered in scaffolding whilst refurbishment works were carried out in 2013 ahead of Kate and William's move. (Getty Images)

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.

General view of Anmer Hall as work continues on the royal country retreat gifted to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Queen Elizabeth II's Sandringham estate in Norfolk.   (Photo by Chris Radburn/PA Images via Getty Images)
Building works underway at Anmer Hall ahead once gifted to Kate and William by the Queen. (PA Images via Getty Images)
KING'S LYNN, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 13: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) A general view of the front of Anmer Hall on the Sandringham Estate on January 13, 2013 in King's Lynn, England. It has been reported that Queen Elizabeth II is to give Anmer Hall to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge to be their country house. (Photo by Indigo/Getty Images)
Anmer Hall in January 2013, before work begun on the property. (Getty Images)

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).

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 05: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Queen Elizabeth II, Prince George of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Louis of Cambridge stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace following the Platinum Pageant on June 5, 2022 in London, England. The Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II is being celebrated from June 2 to June 5, 2022, in the UK and Commonwealth to mark the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 1952. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
The Cambridges photographed with the Queen at the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June. (Getty Images)

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.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 10: A general view of Frogmore Cottage at Frogmore Cottage on April 10, 2019 in Windsor, England. The cottage is situated on the Frogmore Estate, itself part of Home Park, Windsor, in Berkshire. It is the new home of Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. (Photo by GOR/Getty Images)
Frogmore Cottage, Harry and Meghan's UK home, is situated on the Frogmore Estate, part of Home Park, Windsor, in Berkshire. (Getty Images)

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.”

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 5: Princess Charlotte arrives for her first day of school, with her brother Prince George and her parents the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, at Thomas's Battersea in London on September 5, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Aaron Chown - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
George and Charlotte, seen arriving on Charlotte's first day in 2019, have been attending Thomas's Battersea in London. (Getty Images)

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