The future Queen Elizabeth II (right) with her sister, Princess Margaret, and one of their corgis outside their playhouse at the Royal Lodge in Windsor in 1936.Photo: Lisa Sheridan/Getty Images
Throughout her extraordinary 96 years, Queen Elizabeth’s homes ranged from a town house in London’s Mayfair neighborhood to the grandest residences owned by the Crown. Though most monarchs live their entire lives in castles and palaces, the late queen was not born expecting to ascend to the throne. In fact, she was the first British monarch born in a private home. Her early days were spent living in grand but not technically palatial surroundings, and she had a somewhat normal childhood until her father unexpectedly became king in 1936. From her birthplace to her beloved Balmoral, where she died peacefully on September 8, 2022, AD looks back at the many houses of Queen Elizabeth II.
17 Bruton Street
Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born on April 21, 1926, at the Mayfair home of her maternal grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore. Her parents had moved into the town house several weeks before her birth and would remain there for several months.
After their wedding, the Duke and Duchess of York (Elizabeth’s parents, before they became king and queen) lived at White Lodge in Richmond, England, at the suggestion of Queen Mary, who grew up in the home. While she was born in London, White Lodge is listed as her parent’s address on Princess Elizabeth’s birth certificate. In 1927, the couple gave up the home, which was originally built in 1627 as a hunting lodge for George II by architect Roger Morris. In 1954, the building was acquired as the new home of the Royal Ballet School’s junior section.
Later in 1926, the family would move into a Georgian home at 145 Piccadilly. In her book, The Little Princesses, the future monarch’s nanny, Marion Crawford, described the five-story building near Hyde Park Corner as “a homelike and unpretentious household.” According to a 1921 advertisement in Country Life magazine, the home, which it called “an important mansion,” had an “entrance hall, principal staircase hall, secondary staircase with eclectic passenger lift, drawing room, dining room, study library about 25 bedrooms [and a] conservatory.” Hamilton Garden, a small park shared by the residents of neighboring buildings, was located in the back of the house and was used daily by the future queen and her sister, Princess Margaret, for play. The family moved out in 1936 and the property was badly damaged in 1940 during a WWII bombing.
The Royal Lodge
Later, while living at 145 Piccadilly, the family would spend weekends at the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park. The Grade II–listed property has a rich history dating back to the mid-17th century, with additions built by architects such as John Nash and Jeffry Wyattville. Much of the building was demolished by King William IV in the 1830s, but the conservatory remained a residence. The lodge was expanded in the 1930s by the future King George VI. The family continued to visit after moving to Buckingham Palace, and Marion Crawford noted, “At Royal Lodge, court etiquette was forgotten, and ceremony left behind… We had all our meals together and went for picnics, and above all, we gardened.”
Y Bwthyn Bach
Set on the grounds of the Royal Lodge, Y Bwthyn Bach is a playhouse given to Princess Elizabeth by the people of Wales for her sixth birthday. Also known as the Little House, the miniature cottage was outfitted with a gas stove, electricity, plumbing, and petite oak furniture modeled after pieces in the National Museum of Wales.
This 18th-century home near Balmoral was used as a holiday retreat for the duke and duchess of York and the princesses. Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip would later stay there during the summer with their young children.
Princess Elizabeth moved into Buckingham Palace in 1936 when her father became king. The building, initially a town house built in 1703, was purchased by King George III for Queen Charlotte in 1761. It became the official London residence of the royal family in 1837 when Queen Victoria ascended the throne. Architects John Nash and Edward Blore enlarged the palace during the 19th century, and the iconic façade was remodeled in the early 20th century.
The Palace boasts 775 rooms, including 19 staterooms, 52 bedrooms for the royals and their guests, 188 staff bedrooms, 78 bathrooms, and 92 offices. After she became queen in 1952, Elizabeth used the palace as her permanent residence until 2020, when she moved to Windsor Castle full-time.
Following her wedding to the duke of Edinburgh in 1947, the princess used Clarence House, a residence built between 1825 and 1827 and designed by architect John Nash, as her and her husband’s London home. The couple began their marriage and family in the home, and the princess gave birth to her daughter, Anne, Princess Royal, there in 1950. (King Charles III was born at Buckingham Palace). Following the queen’s ascension, Clarence House became home to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret, and later became the London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (now King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort) and a bachelor Prince William.
From 1949 to 1951, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip split their time between the UK and Malta, where the prince was stationed as a naval officer. Villa Guardamangia was built in 1900 and later leased to the prince’s uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten (The Crown fans may know him as Uncle Dickie). The home is the only place outside of the UK where the queen ever lived. The Maltese government purchased the home for $5 million when it went on the market in 2019 and announced plans to restore it.
Between 1947 and 1949, Princess Elizabeth and her husband rented Windlesham Moor, a furnished country house in Surrey. According to Country Living, the Victorian home had five bedrooms, a 50-foot drawing room, a study, a games room, and a nursery made up of two guest rooms.
The Queen and her family spent Christmases at Sandringham, a 20,000-acre country estate located in Norfolk. The property was originally purchased by the future King Edward VII, who rebuilt the house with the help of architect A.J. Humbert and, later, Robert William Edis.
Before making it her residence in 2020, the Queen would spend weekends, as well as a month over the Easter holiday and a week in June, at Windsor Castle. Originally built in the 11th century, the castle is the largest occupied castle in the world. While many monarchs have made their mark on the property, George IV and his architect Jeffry Wyatville added many of the iconic Gothic features, as well as the grand Waterloo chamber. The queen will be interred in the King George VI Memorial Chapel at the St. George’s Chapel, located on the castle grounds.
Set in the northwest of County Down, Hillsborough Castle was the queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland. The Georgian country home was built in the 18th century and later sold to the British government in 1922.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Palace of Holyroodhouse was the queen’s official residence in Scotland. The palace was originally a monastery founded in 1128 and was the home of Mary, Queen of Scots. Her Majesty would spend one week there each summer, usually from the end of June to the beginning of July.
Located in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Balmoral is where the queen spent her summers, usually staying from July until early October. The 50,000-acre property was purchased in 1852 by Prince Albert, who demolished the original castle after a new Scottish Baronial one was completed in 1856. The estate, which was her own private property, was considered by many to be her favorite, and she died there surrounded by family on September 8.