The Middleton family (and Prince William) are often spotted in the local community, shopping at the local Bladebone Butchery (now the Blackbird Café) and Peach’s Stores (William and Kate are fans of Haribo sweets and mint Viennetta ice cream), drinking in the picturesque 17th century Bladebone Inn and attending the traditional August Bank holiday fair. (In fact The Middletons’ showed their gratitude by inviting butcher Martin Fidler and his wife Sue and shop keepers Chan and Hash Shingadia to the royal wedding. The prince first visited the village for Kate’s 21st birthday party in 2003. He arrived late and left after the sit-down dinner, which was held in a marquee, but his appearance was significant and showed how close the royal flatmates had become. Five years later, he caused even more of a stir when he landed a £10 million Chinook helicopter in Kate’s back garden to practice his take-off and landing skills.
Upper Flat, 13a Hope Street, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9HJ
Balgove Farmhouse, Strathtyrum Farm, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9SF
Set in the tiny seaside town of St Andrews on the east coast of Scotland (once the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland and now renowned as the home of golf) the University of St Andrews was founded in 1413 and is the oldest university in Scotland. Boasting alumni such as King James II of Scotland, Nobel Prize winner Sir James Black, Edward Jenner, who discovered the smallpox vaccine, First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond and novelist Fay Weldon, its most famous old students are the Earl and Countess of Strathearn. They first met in 2001 (Kate arrived for freshers’ week; (William a week later) when they moved into the same halls of residence St Salvator’s Hall (deemed the best because it is set on the quadrangle) and began studying for the same degree (history of art – although William later changed to geography). But it was not until their second term when Kate caught the eye of the prince by sashaying down the catwalk in her lingerie during a charity fashion show.
By their second year the couple were close enough to share a £400,000 maisonette in the centre of the town, which they rented for £400-a-week with two friends Fergus Boyd and Olivia Bleasdale. The students kept a low profile, walking or cycling to lectures, shopping at Safeway and spending the evenings at home, listening to the sound of William’s R&B music or Fergus’ jazz, thumping from their stereos. They rarely ventured out during the week – unless they were attending lectures or visiting the university library – apart from on Wednesday afternoons when they played sport. Both William, who had by now been voted the university’s water polo captain, and Fergus trained for two hours on Thursday nights in the pool of St Leonards girls’ school.
For their final two years, the group moved away from the centre of the town into a £750,000 18th century farmhouse on the Strathyrum estate. The cottage, set in rolling grounds brimming with orchids and fuschia bushes, was an idyllic venue for William and Kate. Not only was the house discreet, but it was also totally secure: a neighbouring cottage was chosen as the centre of a security operation, and squads of officers were drafted in to keep 24-hour surveillance on the farmhouse. The cottage was also bombproofed and CCTV cameras and panic buttons installed, linked to both local police stations and Buckingham Palace in case of an emergency. During their time at the university, the couple immersed themselves in student life.
They were often to be spotted drinking and chatting at Ma Bells, the bar in the basement of the St Andrews Golf Hotel (now the Hotel du Vin), which is close to the university and overlooks the seafront. Known as ‘yah yah Bells’ because of its reputation as a hangout for the university’s Sloane Rangers, it was often heaving in the evenings with students dancing to the resident DJ. Another favourite venue was the West Port Bar, where William and Fergus retired after playing rugby sevens. One of their annual outings was the May Ball, which was held in the Byre, a converted barn, in the grounds of Kinkell Farm – the royal couple had VIP passes so they could avoid the riffraff.
When the couple graduated in 2005, the university’s vice chancellor Dr Brian Lang, said: ‘I say this every year to all new graduates: “You may have met your husband or wife.” Our title as the top matchmaking university in Britain signifies so much that is good about St Andrews, so we rely on you to go forth and multiply – but in the positive sense that I earlier urged you to adopt.’ Six years later, William and Kate returned to the university for its 600th Anniversary Appeal, of which William was patron. By then they were engaged.
Old Church Street, London SW3 5DL
Old Church Street has the distinction of being the oldest street in Chelsea and home to the Duchess of Cambridge’s bachelorette apartment. Her parents Mike and Carole bought the flat for £780,000 in 2002, shortly after she moved in with Prince William, and she lived there after moving up to town when she left university. The street, which is named after its church, Chelsea Old Church, has had a number of famous occupants: 19th century novelist Charles Kingsley (who wrote the Water Babies) lived at number 56; painter Augustus John built number 28 just before World War I; and author AA Milne, who wrote Winnie the Pooh in the 1920’s, lived at number 13. During the 1960s, the street was home to the recording studios Sound Techniques (46a), which was where singer-songwriter Nick Drake recorded his first album ‘Five Leaves Left’ (Pink Floyd and The Who also recorded there). It is now the location of the Chelsea Arts Club and the shoe designer Manolo Blahnik.
Bodorgan Estates, Bodorgan, Isle of Anglesey LL62 5LP
With a private beach and views of Snowdonia, a four-bedroom whitewashed farmhouse on the south west corner of the island is where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spent their first years of married life. William paid £750 a week to landowner Sir George Meyrick to rent the house near RAF Valley, when he began his search and rescue training in 2010, and openly shared the house with Kate (although she retained her London pied-à-terre for discretion).
The couple led a simple life – although William’s commute to work was out of the ordinary. He would leave at 6.45am each day in a black Range Rover followed by security or be collected by a Sea King search and rescue helicopter, which would land in the grounds of the estate. They would regularly enjoy Wednesday night suppers of shepherd’s pie and claret up at ‘the big house’ (the stately home, Bodorgan Hall, owned by the Meyricks), go pheasant shooting once a month and watch Downton Abbey on Sunday evenings (according to Jessica Brown Findlay, who played Lady Sybil Crawley, they were ‘huge fans’).
During the summer months, they would have barbecues on the beach – on one occasion Kate, who is a volunteer for the Scout Organisation, cooked burgers for local cubs and beaver scouts and helped them fish and catch crabs. ‘My eight-year-old stepbrother went over to Kate Middleton’s house for a BBQ,’ one fan tweeted. ‘I’m about to cry with jealousy.’ Sometimes the couple would drive around in a battered white Ford Transit van, wearing baseball caps and sunglasses to remain incognito; at other times William would speed along the country lanes, dressed in leathers and a helmet, on his red and white 180mph Ducati motorbike, Kate occasionally riding pillion.
The Bodorgan estate was given to one of Sir George Meyrick’s ancestors by Henry VIII. The farmhouse, which is accessed by a private lane, is totally secluded.
Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PX
Once inhabited by Princess Margaret, Apartment 1A, in the clock tower, at Kensington Palace is now the London home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The couple moved into the 57-room residence after a £5.5 million renovation – Prince George celebrated his first birthday in the apartment in 2014 (guests included the Queen and Michael and Carole Middleton) and the Mothering Sunday photograph of William, Kate, George and Lupo, was taken in the window of their newly revamped home.
Originally known as Nottingham House, the Jacobean palace was bought by William III from his Secretary of State, the Earl of Nottingham. He commissioned Christopher Wren to extend the house and build the Royal Apartments, Council Chamber, Chapel Royal and Great Stairs. A private road (wide enough for three or four carriages to travel abreast) was laid out from the Palace to Hyde Park Corner (a length survives today as Rotton Row).
Kensington Palace was the favourite residence of successive sovereigns until the death of George II in 1760.
The birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria, it was there that she woke up in her wooden and gilt bateau lit on June 20, 1837, to be told that she was Queen of England. She immediately moved to Buckingham Palace and never stayed in Kensington again. The Queen’s grandmother Queen Mary was born in at Kensington in 1867 and the Duke of Edinburgh stayed there in his grandmother’s apartment in 1947 between his engagement and marriage to the Queen. William and Kate have hosted a number of events at the Palace including the 2013 Winter Whites Gala in aid of Centrepoint, when William joined Jon Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift in an impromptu performance of Living On A Prayer.
Anmer Hall, Anmer, Norfolk PE31 6RW
Nestled in the heart of the Norfolk countryside, down a long sweeping driveway, lined with trees and shrubs to shield it from prying eyes, lies one of the most famous Georgian manor houses in Britain. Built at the turn of the 19th century in red brick, with a semi-circular porch on two Tuscan columns and a clay pantile roof (currently bright orange until it weathers),
Anmer Hall is the new family home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The couple were gifted the ten-bedroom mansion, which has a swimming pool and tennis courts, by the Queen. One of 150 properties on the monarch’s 20,000-acre Sandringham Estate, it lies only two miles east of Sandringham House – one of her favourite private residences, where the royals celebrate Christmas every year. It is a house steeped in royal history: not only was it the home to one of Camilla Parker Bowles’ ancestors but it was the location of her illicit trysts with Prince Charles – that’s not to mention the Queen’s cousin, the Duke of Kent, and Prince Charles’ university pal, Hugh van Cutsem. Although it has illustrious pedigree, it was originally a private residence.
The future Edward VII only bought the property in 1896 – five years before he ascended the throne – and Anmer Hall became a grace-and-favour home. Its first tenant was the bushy-bearded Admiral Sir Frederick Tower Hamilton, a former Aide-de-Camp to Edward VII, who had fought in the Zulu War. His wife Maria was the daughter of Sir Henry Keppel, the younger brother of the Duchess of Cornwall’s great-great-great grandfather George Keppel, 6th Earl of Albermarle, who was Camilla’s first cousin four times removed.
Other renowned residents of Anmer Hall include Sir John Maffey, the grandfather of Britain’s disgraced former Conservative cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken and actress Maria Aitken, the Queen’s cousin the Duke of Kent – who lived there with his wife and three children (The Earl of St Andrews, Lady Helen Taylor and Lord Nicholas Windsor) and Prince Charles’ university friend Hugh van Cutsem (father of Edward, Hugh, Nicholas and William). It is reputedly the country bolthole where Charles enjoyed secret trysts with his then mistress Camilla Parker Bowles.
William and Kate have spent an estimated £1.5 million so far, putting their stamp on the property and shielding it from intruders and paparazzi: they have built a new driveway across a grazing field, installed a gate across a public road and re-routed the approach road to the nearby St Mary’s Church for worshippers. They have also built a new glass-roofed garden room, linking the main house to an old wood store, which has been transformed into a ‘nanny flat’, converted a garage block into accommodation for royal protection officers and installed a top-of-the-range kitchen. Tourists can take a guided tour around Sandringham but nobody without an embossed invitation will dine at Anmer Hall.
About the author: Claudia Joseph trained as a fashion journalist at the London College of Fashion before becoming a news reporter. She has worked at Tatler, The Times, and the Mail on Sunday, and contributes regularly to a number of British newspapers and magazines. She also commentates on royal matters on radio and TV and is author of Kate: The Making of a Princess. She lives in London.