The royal family is complicated, to say the least. Some live in palaces, while others only live in mansions. What’s up with that? We can explain.
No Rules In Place
The primary driver for royal residences is tradition. There’s a whole episode of The Crown all about Queen Elizabeth struggling to decide on her permanent residence. There aren’t actually any proper laws on the books about who is allowed to live where. For members of the royal family just outside the inner circle, this is both good news and bad news.
It’s A Bit Messy
Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice, the daughters of disgraced royal Prince Andrew, used to live in the same place: St James’s Palace. Eugenie moved out when she went to college and never came back.
Currently, Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank live at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, the UK base of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. She lived with Andrew for a bit during the early days of COVID-19 but now calls the cottage home. Beatrice is still at St James Palace with her family, Princess Anne, and Elizabeth’s first cousin, Princess Alexandra.
This sounds cramped but remember, this is a palace we’re talking about. The “apartments” at the palace contain multiple bedrooms apiece, so none of these royals are stumbling over one another.
This is a tangled web, and it begs the question: what defines a palace? The answer’s surprisingly simple: if a ruler lives there, it’s a palace. St James Palace was the official royal residence from the 1530s until Buckingham Palace was built in the early 1800s.
So Let’s Review…
Elizabeth lives at Buckingham Palace and spends time in Windsor Castle and Balmoral Castle. These aren’t permanent residences, so they’re just castles. Every Christmas she heads to Sandringham as well.
Charles lives very close to St James Palace in Clarence House. He and Camilla Parker Bowles moved there in 2005 and used to contain the Queen Mother. Prince William and Kate Middleton reside in Kensington Palace.
Oh boy, another Palace. Kensington Palace became a palace in 1696 when William and Mary of Orange moved there. The palace has held royals ever since and was favored by Queen Victoria. Since it was an official residence in the 17th century, it gets to be a palace and not a cottage.