The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are ‘seriously’ considering a move to Windsor, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The proposed move, which would bring the family closer to the Queen, is the most significant sign yet that the couple is gearing up for a much higher role at the heart of the Royal Family.
A source said William and Kate were “looking into” accommodation options in the area suitable for the upbringing of their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
Keeping an eye on options: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are ‘seriously’ considering a move to Windsor, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Pictured: The Cambridges and their children
They added that properties under consideration could include Fort Belvedere, a Grade II listed tower house on the south side of Windsor Great Park, where King Edward VIII – the Queen’s uncle – signed his abdication papers in 1936.
The fort is owned by the Crown Estate and leased to the Weston family, close friends of the Royals. From the top of the tower, on a clear day, Edward once wrote, you could see the dome of St Paul’s ‘with binoculars’.
But the fortress has been dismissed as an option by palace officials.
Moving the family west – wherever they end up – could be both strategic and practical as the monarchy prepares for major changes in the coming years.
Currently, the Cambridges split their time between their London base at Kensington Palace, where they also have their offices, and their country home, Anmer Hall, in Norfolk.
A source said William and Kate were “looking into” accommodation options in the area suitable for the upbringing of their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. Pictured: Windsor Castle
The move, which would bring the family closer to the Queen (pictured), is the most important sign so far as the couple are preparing for a higher role at the heart of the Royal Family
The house on the Sandringham Estate was a wedding gift from the Queen and, after undertaking renovations, William and Kate made it their permanent home from 2015 to 2017.
The rural location had a number of important advantages at the time: William worked as a helicopter pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance and the couple wanted to give their young children the most normal upbringing possible, away from the public.
39 princes, ten centuries – and one annus horribilis
The oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world, Windsor Castle, on the right, is where the Queen feels most at home.
Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it is home to 39 monarchs.
As a young Princess Elizabeth, the Queen and her sister Margaret spent the war years in Windsor and made their first radio address from here to wish British children ‘good night and happiness’ during the war.
Last year, the Queen recorded a rousing televised speech to the nation during the coronavirus pandemic from the White Room of the castle. For once, with flights suspended during lockdown, the message didn’t need to be timed to avoid the noise of planes taking off and landing at Heathrow Airport.
The castle has also been a labor of love for the Windsors.
When a fire broke out in November 1992 – a year the Queen described as her ‘annus horribilis’ – it damaged 115 rooms, including nine state rooms. Rescuers joined a human chain to bring precious works of art to safety. Prince Philip was instrumental in restoring the castle, leading a restoration committee that raised money for the costly and delicate repairs by opening Buckingham Palace to the public.
In the new chapel, he placed a stained glass window that commemorates the events of that night and those who fought to bring the fire under control.
It shows firefighters fighting the blaze, one bringing a painting to safety, while St. George kills the dragon with smoke rising behind him.
Until his death in April, Philip held the role of Ranger of Windsor Great Park and was often seen as a carriage.
Visitors to the park can still glimpse the Duke’s well-known green carriage – now driven by his granddaughter Lady Louise, who is herself an experienced driver.
But today, with their eldest two children at school in London, it has become quite far to travel on weekends. At Windsor, they could work in reverse – settling the family there full-time and commuting to London if necessary.
A source said: ‘Anmer Hall made sense when William was a helicopter pilot in East Anglia and it was useful for Christmas at Sandringham, but it doesn’t really work anymore. It’s a little too far out for weekends, but Windsor is a perfect compromise. They are looking at the possibilities in the area.’
The move has other benefits as well. It would bring the Cambridges closer to Kate’s parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, who live 40 miles away in Bucklebury, Berkshire and are known for being practical grandparents.
Kate’s sister Pippa, her husband James Matthews and their two children also have a house in the village.
After the death of the Duke of Edinburgh in April, it would no doubt also be a boost for the Queen to have the Cambridges around.
The 95-year-old monarch has a close relationship with William, and during his time at Eton College – which is close to the castle – he often had Sunday lunches with his grandparents in the castle’s paneled Oak Room.
For years, the Queen used Windsor as a weekend retreat and workweek retreat at Buckingham Palace. But the monarch now plans to settle permanently in Windsor once she returns from the annual summer vacation in Balmoral.
She and Prince Philip stayed in Windsor during the lockdown. It meant she was close with her youngest son Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, who live nearby in Bagshot Park, and Prince Andrew, who lives in Royal Lodge with his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson.
Prince Harry and Meghan have refurbished Frogmore Cottage on Windsor Estate, but the property is now used by Princess Eugenie, her husband Jack Brooksbank and their six-month-old son August.
If the Cambridges are around, most of the Queen’s immediate family – with the exception of Prince Charles and Princess Anne – would be around to support her.
An insider added: “I don’t think we’ll see the Sussexes come back in any meaningful way.”
In October, the Queen will make a series of high-profile engagements with various members of the family.
Highlights in the coming weeks include performing with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall to open the sixth session of the Scottish Parliament.