Visit Sandringham, the Queen’s country estate
Every Christmas, the royal family heads to Norfolk and Sandringham castle. Amid great media attention, Meghan Markle, before she became the Duchess of Sussex, was invited to spend the 2017 festivities there.
Queen Victoria bought the Sandringham estate, 190km north-east of London, in 1863 and work on the current 19th century Jacobean-style building began a few years later. It remains the country retreat of Queen Elizabeth II.
Far from keeping the public out, parts of the castle and grounds are open to visit, generally on a daily basis between April and October. Guides in every room are keen to share their knowledge with a disarming informality.
A further 240 hectares of woodland heath are open to the public all year round. Don’t miss the adjacent church of St Mary Magdalene, where the royal family regularly worships, with its exquisitely carved angels.
The current royal family is of course only the latest in a long line of rulers of kingdoms that have ruled the island of Britain. The dark and mysterious times of the Saxon kings were captured in the series, Last Kingdom, an adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s novels, the Saxon Stories.
A fourth series of Last Kingdom was commissioned by Netflix (the first three proved hugely popular) and echoes of these sagas can be found around the coast. Whitby Abbey was founded by one of the first English kings, King Oswy, who ruled Yorkshire and Northumbria in the mid-7th century. St Hild, the abbess of Whitby in Oswy’s time, and one of the most powerful women of medieval times, was also from Yorkshire’s royal family.
Royal echoes from Whitby have travelled down the centuries: Queen Victoria is known to have loved jewellery made from Whitby jet and considered the worked stone as a symbol of her enduring love for Prince Albert. Accordingly, Whitby jet sparked a popular fashion trend in Victorian times.
To learn more about another royal spouse you can head to Lewes, where the home of Anne of Cleeves one of Henry VI six wives – and one of three to survive with her head intact - still stands. The beautiful medieval house is well worth a visit – as is the Tudor tea garden.
Top image, Sandringham Estate
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