If you’ve ever asked, “Where does the royal family live?” the answer feels straightforward. Buckingham Palace. Windsor Castle. Sandringham Estate. Super fans might even name check St. James’s Palace. Evidently, being member of the British monarchy has its perks—can’t forget the country homes—but while they may reside there, the ownership is...complicated. Some estates are privately held, but others are managed by organizations such as the Crown Estate and Historic Royal Palaces. Then there are the properties that might not come to mind when we think of royal family homes, and that’s the duchies. Here’s a breakdown of properties owned by the royal family, from Balmoral to Buckingham.
Your Guide to 25 Properties Owned by the Royal Family, from Balmoral to Buckingham
What Is a Duchy?
How does the monarch pay for the upkeep of all the royal residences? A handsome income comes from the Duchy of Lancaster. According to its website, the duchy, which was founded in the 13th century, “is a unique portfolio of land, property and assets held in trust for the Sovereign in His or Her role as Duke of Lancaster.” It is privately owned by the monarch and comprises about 46,000 acres of land spanning commercial, agricultural and residential properties. Most of the land holdings are in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire and Lincolnshire. However, the Duchy of Lancaster also has an urban residential portfolio and financial investments. In total, the duchy is worth about £652.8 million ($797.8 million) yielding £24 million ($29 million) to the sovereign yearly.
As the Duchy of Lancaster belongs to the reigning monarch, the heir to the throne derives his or her income from the Duchy of Cornwall. Established in 1337, it provides about £21 million ($26 million) annually to the Prince of Wales. It is composed of more than 600 residential and 700 agricultural tenancies, nearly 35,000 acres of moors, 8,000 acres of woodland, isles and ancient monuments—and that’s just keeping the list short.
What Is the Crown Estate?
The Crown Estate is the property of the sitting king or queen. Its holdings are vast, including, but not limited to Windsor Castle; the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland; rural and coastal holdings and 10 million square feet of mixed-use property in London’s West End. All profits are rendered to the treasury, but according to The Guardian, the sovereign grant paid out £86 million ($105 million) to the crown last year.
Wait, So How Many Properties Does the Royal Family Actually Own?
Tallying every single residential unit, tract of farmland, monument and castle can be tricky, but it’s safe to say that in total, the duchies, which are large swaths of commercial and residential developments plus rural land and historic properties, amount to about 177,000 acres of land. Additionally, here’s a breakdown of the 25 most notable properties belonging to the royal family.
Best known as the late Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite summer retreat, Balmoral Castle sits in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Prince Albert first purchased the property as a gift for his wife, Queen Victoria, in 1852. Victoria had become enamored with the Highlands after taking her first trip 10 years prior. In 1853, construction began on a new castle, which stands today, and the former one was demolished.
The Royal family has spent many a Christmas on this Norfolk estate, which has been in their possession since 1862. Sandringham includes nearly 20,000 ares of land, 350 of which make up a country park. It’s open to the public year-round. Sandringham was purchased by Queen Victoria as a birthday present for her son and heir, Prince Albert Edward of Wales. The Prince of Wales kept a London home at Marlborough House, and thus Sandringham was his country seat. The original home on the property was torn down, with a new one completed in 1870. King Edward VII opened the gardens to the public in 1908.
3. Anmer Hall
Queen Elizabeth II presented Anmer Hall to the now Prince and Princess of Wales to mark the occasion of their wedding in 2011. The 10-bedroom Georgian manor house sits on Sandringham’s property and was previously occupied by the Duke and Duchess of Kent from 1972 to 1990.
4. Birkhall Estate
A neighbor to Balmoral Castle, Birkhall has 6,000 acres to its title and was also purchased by Prince Albert. (What can we say? The man had taste...and money.) In 1849, Queen Victoria’s husband bought the estate for their son, who would become Edward VII. In the 1930s, the Duke of York (future George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s father) and his family lived at Birkhall. When George VI ascended the throne, the Queen Mother took possession. It now belongs to King Charles III.
Not to be confused with a cottage of the same name, this 17th-century country house has been in the royal family for over 300 years. Located in the Home Park of Windsor Castle, it was purchased by King George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, in 1792. Later, Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, would live there for nearly two decades.
6. Gatcombe Park
Located in Gloucestershire, Gatcombe Park is the private home of Anne, Princess Royal, where she lives with husband Sir Timothy Laurence. Her daughter, Zara Tindall, moved there with her family in 2013. Queen Elizabeth bought the manor as a wedding present upon her daughter’s marriage to Captain Mark Phillips. Set in the Cotswolds, Gatcombe Park is close to King Charles’ Highgrove House. The estate is a working farm with livestock and also hosts the annual Festival of British Eventing, a major equestrian event.
As the official London residence of the king, Buckingham Palace is perhaps the most widely known property owned by the royal family. Managed by the Royal Collection Trust, the palace has been the monarch’s principal residence since 1837, hosting numerous events and receptions throughout the year. Buckingham boasts an astounding 775 rooms (including 78 bathrooms) and was purchased by George III for Queen Charlotte in 1761.
Windsor Castle in Berkshire County is another royal family property managed by the Royal Collection Trust and is the world’s largest, oldest occupied castle. First inhabited by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, over 40 sovereigns have called Windsor home. On the grounds is the medieval St. George’s Chapel, which encompasses 500 years of history and is the burial place of numerous kings and queens, including Henry VIII, Charles I and Elizabeth II.
9. Clarence House
Clarence House was built for King George III’s third son, the Duke of Clarence and was the home of the Queen Mother for nearly 50 years. This was also the London home of Charles III and his mother, Elizabeth II, before they ascended the throne.
10. Dumfries House
This 18th-century Scotland home boasts an unrivaled collection of Chippendale furniture and came into the ownership of King Charles III’s Prince Foundation in 2007. Prior, the house was to be auctioned off, but the former prince rallied the funds to save Dumfries House. The Prince’s Foundation made significant improvements to the grounds and gardens and has helped to boost employment in the region, which was a dying coal mining town. It is now open to the public and provides young people with the opportunity to learn traditional skills and crafts.
Managed by Historic Royal Palaces, Kensington Palace in London was the birthplace of Queen Victoria and has been a home for young royals. On its grounds sit Ivy Cottage, Wren House and Nottingham Cottage. Formerly known as Nottingham House, it was previously a “small and suburban villa” that served as William III and Mary II’s country retreat. Subsequent Stuart and Georgian monarchs eventually transformed it into a young royals’ residence. Princess Diana once called it home, and now Prince William and Princess Catherine do, too.
Until Queen Victoria’s reign, St. James’s Palace in London was the home of English kings and queens for over 300 years. The working palace hosts up to 100 receptions annually, in addition to being the official home of the Princess Royal and Princess Alexandra. Upon the death of a monarch, the Accession Council meets at St. James’s Palace, and the Garter King of Arms proclaims the new sovereign here.
13. Highgrove House
Highgrove House is the personal property of King Charles III, purchased by the Duchy of Cornwall in 1980. The neoclassical estate is located near Tetbury in Gloucestershire. The gardens have been extensively transformed over the decades and are open to the public from April to September.
This is the official residence of the monarch when they visit Scotland. Built in 1503 in Edinburgh by James IV, the gardens once hosted hunting, hawking and archery tournaments. The palace began as an abbey constructed by David I in 1128. Since then, it has been the backdrop for plenty of historical events and drama, including the murder of Mary, Queen of Scot’s secretary by her husband.
As the seat of the notorious Tudor king, Henry VIII, Hampton Court Palace in Richmond upon Thames, London, could be likened to the British version of Versailles. During his reign, Hampton Court functioned as the center of Tudor aristocratic life—it was a hotel, theater, and leisure complex. It eventually fell out of favor as a royal residence, and instead became a grace-and-favor. A grace-and-favor is lodging provided by the monarch, free of charge. It will oftentimes be granted to family, and in the case of Hampton Court, it was bestowed on aristocratic windows whose husbands served the crown. In 1838, Queen Victoria opened the palace to the public.
16. Frogmore Cottage
The private home of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Frogmore Cottage is a 10-bedroom home on Windsor Estate. It was the subject of much controversy after it was revealed that renovations cost the public £2.4 million ($2.9 million), which Prince Harry and Meghan Markle later repaid. At one point, the Sussexes leased the property to Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank. It remains the former’s London residence when they are in the United Kingdom.
Murder, betrayal, family feuds. Before the Queen Mother purchased the Castle of Mey in 1952, it was built and owned by the Earls of Caithness. The castle located on the north coast of Scotland in Caithness and underwent renovations from 1953 to 1955, and the Queen Mother subsequently spent 10 days there in October annually. After her death, the Castle of May passed to The Prince’s Foundation, which was managed for many years by King Charles III before he took the throne.
18. Fort Belvedere
The former home of the Duke of Windsor, Fort Belvedere is composed of 59 acres in Windsor Great Park in Surrey. It also previously served as Queen Victoria’s tea house and George IV’s day lodge. George V gifted Fort Belvedere to Prince Edward in 1929, and the latter lived there until his abdication from the throne in 1936. Though it belongs to the Crown, the estate is now occupied by private tenants.
19. Dolphin House
When the royals fancy a seaside vacation, they can hop over to the Dolphin House on Tresco, an island in the Isles of Scilly off the Cornish coast. They own not only the home but the entire island. If you want to go on holiday fit for a king, there’s good news for you—anyone can rent the cottage.
20. Craigowan Lodge
This humble lodge sits on the grounds of Balmoral, about a mile from the main castle. As it is private and not open to visitors, Queen Elizabeth II would stay here before the tourist season was over at Balmoral. Craigowan Lodge also hosted notable guests. Among them? According to Express, the Romanoff family stayed there during World War II.
21. Thatched House Lodge
Thatched House Lodge is the private home of Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin, Princess Alexandra. (Both were granddaughters of George V.) The lodge is a grace-and-favor home and was originally built as two houses for the Richmond Park staff, where the home is situated. The princess has lived there since 1963.
22. The Royal Lodge
The Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park is just south of the main castle in Berkshire. As part of the Crown Estate, the Royal Lodge is a grace-and-favor property that was originally built as a space for George IV to entertain guests of the Royal Ascot. (The racetracks aren’t far.) It was the home of the Queen Mother from 1952 until her death in 2002, whereupon it passed to Prince Andrew. The Duke of York resides there with his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson.
23. Y Bwthyn Bach
On the grounds of the Royal Lodge is Y Bwthyn Bach, a life-size doll house built at two-thirds the size of a normal cottage. The playhouse was a present from the Welsh people to Queen Elizabeth on her sixth birthday.
King Charles III’s Welsh cottage was sustainably constructed using local materials (like Welsh lime plaster and slate) and has features such as rainwater storage and a wood-chip water boiler. The King purchased the home in 2007.
25. Bagshot Park
Located in Surrey, 30 miles from London in Windsor Great Park, this is the home of the Count and Countess of Wessex, Prince Edward and Sophie. Bagshot Park has been a royal estate for nearly 200 years and began as a series of smaller lodges built for Charles I. Later, Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, lived here from 1880 to his death in 1942. Bagshot Park is the property of the Crown Estate, with the Wessexes having a 150-year lease on the 120-room mansion.