If you’ve ever wondered just how good it is to be Queen, look no further than the British royal family’s more than 13 billion pound real estate portfolio. As the United Kingdom’s reigning monarch, Elizabeth II and her progeny lord over a number of crown-owned estates—consider it a form of subsidized housing that operates as a real estate business and is neither owned by the government nor her private person. She receives 25 percent of the Crown Estate’s revenues as a Sovereign Grant, which funds the maintenance of those properties as well as her work in an official capacity.
Among these are 775-room, 800-staff member Buckingham Palace, her most famous residence and where she lives and works most of the time, and Kensington Palace, where Prince Charles and Prince Diana lived with their children (and Diana remained until her death in 1997), and Prince William and Catherine Middleton now reside with George, Charlotte, and Louis (they moved into Apartment 1A, the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret’s former residence). Lesser known properties include Hillsborough Castle, where the Queen stays during state visits to Northern Ireland, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, her official residence in Scotland.
But the Crown Estate also owns less traditional real estate holdings, like Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire—the site of the Gold Cup, one of the Queen’s favorite sporting events—as well as London’s five-star Savoy Hotel, an American Express Fine Hotel & Resort property. Additionally, the estate owns retail mecca Regent Street, the rights to salmon fishing and gold mining in Scotland, nearly 300,000 acres of farmland and forests, and 30 off-shore wind farms worth more than 1 billion pounds.
In addition to these crown-owned properties, the monarch herself owns an impressive roster of residences, from Sandringham Estate, which was passed on to her by her father King George VI, to Balmoral Castle, her summer retreat in the Scottish Highlands. Here’s a closer look at some of the crown-owned and privately held real estate holdings of the British royal family.
Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England
With 1,000 rooms, the world’s largest (and Europe’s longest) occupied castle is also one of its most iconic. The 900-year-old fortress is both private home and official residence for Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, who conduct state meetings and spend Easter Court here; she first moved to the 13-acre property with her sister Margaret during World War II but currently uses the castle as a weekend retreat. It also houses St. George’s Chapel, where Prince Harry married Meghan Markle in 2018 (their wedding reception was held at another Crown-owned property, Frogmore House, in the Windsor-adjacent Home Park, and currently reside with son Archie at Frogmore Cottage), as well as the Welsh Cottage, a 2/5-size playhouse—complete with electricity and running water—gifted to then Princess Elizabeth by the people of Wales on her sixth birthday. It is said the current royal grandchildren play there, and that the Queen occasionally visits it.
Balmoral Castle in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Described as “freaky” by Tony Blair and “beautiful” by Princess Eugenie, Balmoral Castle was purchased by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria in 1852 before being torn down and replaced with this stunner in 1856. Set on 50,000 acres in the Scottish highlands, the royal family’s privately owned summer residence is rumored to be Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite. It was also where Prince Charles and Princess Diana honeymooned in 1981; now, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall stay nearby in the estate’s Birkhall residence when in Scotland. The castle is closed to the public during the Royal Visit, but you can tour the site during the offseason, as well as rent one of the on-property cottages for your own blue-blood holiday, complete with safari-style treks and audio tours of the gardens.
Llwynywermod in Llandovery, Wales
Prince Charles, eco-warrior? For more than 40 years, the Prince of Wales has made it his life’s work to promote environmental awareness and sustainability practices around the world, from installing solar panels on the roof at Clarence House to launching a rainforests initiative to help combat deforestation. At Llwynywermod, the home he shares with the Duchess of Cornwall in the Welsh countryside, he takes that passion to heart. The property’s 192 acres are managed using organic farming principles; inside, natural sheep-wool insulation and energy-efficient lighting and appliances join traditional Welsh millwork, textiles, and craftsmanship, making the farmhouse an ideal retreat during the couple’s summer tour of the country each year.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland
Perched at one end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, opposite Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, where she entertains foreign and domestic dignitaries during her week-long stays, known as Holyrood Week. Originally built as an Augustinian monastery in 1128—Holyrood translates to Holy Cross—the palace was a stomping ground for Mary Queen of Scots (she married her two husbands here, and her secretary David Rizzio was murdered in her private apartments) and provided lodging for Oliver Cromwell’s troops during the English Civil War. It’s open to the public year round.
Sandringham House in Norfolk, England
Unlike Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, the privately owned, 19,000-acre Sandringham Estate belongs to Queen Elizabeth II herself, and has been passed down through several generations of Windsor royals (she inherited it from her father King George VI in 1952). The 1870 Jacobean-style main house has been maintained by Prince Philip and is the setting for the royal family’s annual Christmas celebrations. Upon their wedding, Prince William and Catherine Middleton were gifted the estate’s 10-bedroom, Georgian-style Anmer Hall and lived here before moving to Kensington Palace.
Highgrove House in Doughton, Gloucestershire, England
When he’s not traveling to promote his global sustainability initiatives, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles call 18th-century Highgrove House home (as did Diana after her marriage to the prince in 1981). The Georgian private family residence, typically used as a weekend house, was renovated in 1987 to include Neo-classical–style flourishes, including a new balustrade and pilasters, but the real jewel in the crown is the gardens, which welcome more than 30,000 visitors each year. As at Llwynywermod, the estate’s grounds have been cultivated using organic principles and cover a variety of native flora, from a walkway that’s lined with more than 20 different kinds of thyme to a wildflower meadow studded with five types of orchids.
Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire, England
Purchased in 1976 by Queen Elizabeth II, privately-owned Gatcombe Park has long been her only daughter Princess Anne’s country residence (after her split from first husband Mark Phillips, Anne remained there with second husband Timothy Laurence). Anne’s daughter Zara Tindall currently lives at Gatcombe Park full time with her husband, former rugby player Mike Tindall, and their two daughters—no surprise given the Olympic equestrian’s passion for horses. Parts of the 730-acre property are open for craft fairs and sporting events, including the Festival of British Eventing and horse trials on courses designed by Princess Anne herself. Gatcombe Park is also six miles from Highgrove House, making family gatherings convenient.
Clarence House in London, England
The official, Crown-owned residence of the Prince of Wales in London proper, Clarence House has hosted everyone from the Dalai Lama to Donald Trump. In addition to housing Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh after their wedding in 1947, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, and Princes William and Harry, the 19th-century building served as a Red Cross headquarters during World War II. When Charles becomes king, it is believed that he will take up residence at Buckingham Palace, and William and Catherine Middleton will move into Clarence House permanently.
Bagshot Park in Surrey, England
The home of Prince Edward—Earl of Wessex, Queen Elizabeth II’s youngest son, and 11th in line for the throne—touched off a firestorm when it was revealed that he and wife Sophie paid a mere 5,000 pounds annually for the 120-room Tudor-Gothic mansion (the price jumped up to a still rather under-market 90,000 pounds after renovations were completed). Long used as a base for hunting excursions by the Stuart monarchs, the estate’s 52-acre grounds are listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens and were used to house the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department before the Earl and Countess of Wessex took over the lease.
St. James’s Palace in London, England
Though England’s monarchs haven’t lived here since the reign of Queen Victoria—when Buckingham Palace gained favor—but Princess Anne and Princess Alexandra still have apartments here. St. James’s Palace in Westminster remains one of the most important royal edifices in all of Britain. Built by Henry VIII in the 1530s (some of the fireplaces in the state apartments are carved with his initials, as well as those of Anne Boleyn, entwined in a lover’s knot), the Tudor mansion has hosted many of the royal family’s biggest occasions: Prince William and Catherine Middleton announced their engagement here in 2010, and christened Prince George at the palace’s Chapel Royal in 2013. It’s also the place where the Accession Council meets to announce the new king or queen upon the death of the monarch.