Heather's Monthly Articles

The Queen and Sandringham

January 2017

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Sandringham House

For several decades the Queen and Prince Philip have made it a tradition to attend the Christmas and New Year’s Day services at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, a short walk from the Queen’s country home, Sandringham House. This year, that tradition was broken and Prince Philip had to attend without the company of his bride of almost 70 years. In fact the couple, who had been laid up with such severe colds prior to Christmas, were forced delay their trip to Sandringham by a day, and had to travel there by helicopter, rather than by train as is their custom.

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The Queen leaving Christmas
Church Service in 2015

While the sprightly 95-year-old Prince Philip seems to have made a full recovery, as of the time of writing this missive, it’s been two weeks since the 90-year-old monarch has been seen in public. Given that Sandringham House was where two British monarchs drew their last breaths – George V in January of 1936 and the Queen’s father George VI in February of 1952 - folk in the UK are understandably on tenterhooks waiting to hear news of their sovereign’s health.

Sandringham House is one of two residences privately owned by the Royal Family – the other being Balmoral in Scotland. Sitting on 20,000 acres of land near the village of Sandringham in the county of Norfolk, the house was originally purchased in 1862 by Queen Victoria for her son "Bertie", the then Prince of Wales, and his Danish bride Princess Alexandra. The young couple, who reigned as King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra expanded the home and Alexandria lived there until her death in 1925. Their eldest son, Prince Albert, also died at Sandringham House in January of 1892, having contracted the flu during their traditional Christmas gathering, which turned to pneumonia.

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Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Sandringham

Eighty years ago the beloved Sandringham Estate, of which King George V once declared to be "Dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere in the world”, almost passed out of the Royal Family’s hands. It had been handed down on the King’s death to his successor Edward VIII, who may have been willing to give up his role as King to marry the woman he loved, but who was not willing to give up his royal legacies without a fight. Pleading poverty, the soon to be Duke of Windsor not only negotiated that his replacement pay him what in today’s money would be a million dollar a year settlement, but that his younger brother, the incoming King George VI, also buy out his life interest in Sandringham and Balmoral.

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Outside the Church 2011

The cost for both estates back in 1937 was £300,000, or the equivalent of ten million pounds (about $12 million) today, the amount of which was paid, without help from the Government, out of George VI’s personal funds. It was not until after the Abdication that George VI discovered that his older brother had, during the decades he spent as the Duke of Cornwall (a financially lucrative title only bestowed on the oldest living son and heir apparent of the monarch) accumulated the equivalent of what today would be fifty million dollars.

George VI’s wife, Elizabeth the Queen Mother, reportedly never forgave the Edward VIII for abdicating and for propelling her husband into a position he didn’t desire and for which he felt unprepared. Had George VI not become King though, his daughter Elizabeth might never have become the world’s longest and most loved reigning monarch.

Today we wish Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, a happy and especially a healthy New Year.

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