Heritage

Inside Queen Elizabeth's Sandringham Castle, Where Meghan Markle Is Expected to Spend Christmas

The Queen might have a new guest this Christmas.
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Home to four generations of British monarchs since 1862, Sandringham Castle has long been the beloved private country home of Queen Elizabeth II. From its tidal mudflats and fruit farms to the famous museum and gardens, Sandringham is a versatile estate that has seen many a royal occasion. And this year, following the announcement of her engagement to Prince Harry, Suits actress Meghan Markle is expected to spend Christmas there.


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According to The Telegraph, Markle will most likely be invited to the royal family’s annual holiday celebration in Sandringham, Norfolk. This would break royal protocol, since royal brides-to-be, including Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, aren't typically included in the family's holiday. (Meghan and Harry plan to marry in the spring of 2018 and are currently living together in Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace.)

Here’s a look at the history of this ancient English castle where the Queen and her extended clan plan to spend the holidays.

HISTORY

Located in Norfolk, England, just over 100 miles north of London, the Sandringham Castle Estate covers 20,000 acres of land. The British royal family acquired the estate in 1862, when it was purchased as a country home for Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, and his soon-to-be wife, Alexandra of Denmark.


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Prince Edward’s son and heir George V described the sprawling property as “dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere else in the world”; he would eventually die at Sandringham house on January 20, 1936. His son and Queen Elizabeth's father, George VI, would also eventually pass away in the house on February 6, 1952.

Following their deaths, the estate was passed on to Queen Elizabeth II. While plans were then made to demolish the house completely and replace it with a more modern structure, nothing was ever acted upon and Sandringham remained the same.

A WORKING FARM

According to the estate’s website, over 200 people make their living from the estate, including gamekeepers, gardeners, farmers, and those who work in Sandringham’s sawmill and its apple juice pressing plant. The estate places a huge emphasis on recycling, conservation, and forestry, and is a sanctuary for wildlife. The royal family also makes a great effort to support local farms and small businesses.

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The Sandringham estate is also used for royal shooting parties. At one point, King Edward VII, who was fond of hunting, ordered that the clocks be set half an hour earlier than GMT in order to increase the amount of daylight there was for hunting. This came to be known as Sandringham time and was kept from 1901 to 1936, when the clocks were returned to GMT time by King Edward VIII.

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In 1957, Queen Elizabeth II also gave her first televised Christmas message from Sandringham, marking the 25th anniversary of her grandfather George V’s first royal Christmas broadcast via radio. “I wish you all, young and old, wherever you may be, all the fun and enjoyment and the peace of a very happy Christmas,” said the young Queen.

HOW TO VISIT

During her Silver Jubilee in 1977, Queen Elizabeth II opened the house to the public. Today, people can come to visit the estate’s 600 acres of gardens or learn more about royal life and the history of Sandringham at the estate museum.


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Open every day except Good Friday and Christmas Day, the estate welcomes visitors to take a tour of the house itself, see the museum and gardens, or grab a two-course lunch at the Visitor Centre Restaurant. For more ticketing information, visit the estate website here.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Chanel Vargas
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