Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a new base in London

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Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

“Kensington Palace is incredibly secure,” says Ingrid Seward of Majesty magazine. “There are police everywhere. You can’t exactly plonk the couple in a penthouse in the middle of Hyde Park.”

The palace certainly has a pretty decent pedigree. Home to five successive monarchs, it was also the birthplace of Queen Victoria. Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon turned Apartment 1a into the heart of 1960s’ London, hosting parties with guests such as the Rolling Stones.

In 1981 apartments eight and nine were knocked together to make a home for the Prince of Wales, his wife and their two children. By all accounts Princes William and Harry spent some of the happiest times of their childhoods here,
racing round the corridors and playing in the gardens. The Duke of Cambridge’s love of helicopters was apparently fired by watching them land outside, mimicking the hand signals used to guide them in.

Today, however, Kensington Palace seems a curious weekend choice for the young couple. Edward VIII referred to it as an “aunt heap”. Diana, Princess of Wales, described it as “an upmarket Coronation Street”, the curtains twitching at her every move. These days it doesn’t even have that redeeming charm.

Following Diana’s death, apartment eight was turned into an office for Prince Charles, apartment nine into a residence for the Chief of the General Staff. Apartment 1a, Princess Margaret’s former home, is now available for corporate hire, seating 40 for lunch or dinner or 20 for a “boardroom arrangement”.

The majority of the other apartments are also commercially let. “You wouldn’t believe how many places there are in the cottages and apartments,” says Ms Seward. “Of course, people are carefully vetted. And the rents are expensive. But the royal palaces are interested in getting the royals out and more commercial lets in.”

Regardless, a smattering of minor royals remain: the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester; the Duke and Duchess of Kent; and most infamously Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, who were given permission to live here as a wedding present from the Queen in 1978. Following a public outcry in 2002, when it emerged that they were paying a “peppercorn rent” rumoured to be £69 per week, the Queen agreed to subsidise her cousin and his wife. Until last
year she paid their £10,000 a month. Now they pay themselves for apartment 10, a stylish affair with seven bedrooms and nine reception rooms.

There are no signs that the 36th in line to the throne is going to give way to the 2nd – not that there have been any reports of Prince William and his young bride objecting. Perhaps they’ve consoled themselves with the thought
that they spend most of their time during the week in Anglesey, where the Duke is an RAF pilot. Or maybe they’re heartened by the news that the asbestos in their new apartment has now been removed, the dangerous wiring
redone and that they don’t have to pay rent.

Or perhaps it’s simply the case that anything – even living on a building site with distant, ancient family – is preferable to their previous arrangement sharing accommodation in Clarence House with Prince Harry. On one occasion
the Duchess apparently opened the door to her brother-in-law’s bedroom and found Astrid Harbord, a “close friend”, passed out on his bed after a rumbustious evening on the tiles.

Better for all of them, then, if the new couple move a little further away from Mahiki.

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