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The Scottish Mail on Sunday - 2021-11-21

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Will Charles axe historic Palace when he’s King?

Sarah Vine on Sunday

IT’S one of the jewels of Kensington Palace, a fabulous 21-room apartment that has undergone an extensive multi-million-pound refit. But more than three years after the scaffolding came down, Apartment 1 remains empty – causing speculation that there is disinterest in the building and that the whole Palace could even be ‘decommissioned’ by Prince Charles when he becomes King. The apartment had been earmarked for Harry and Meghan to live alongside William and Kate, who moved into Apartment 1A in 2017 after a separate £12million refurbishment. But with the Sussexes very unlikely to return from California, and the Cambridges reportedly having longterm plans to move to Windsor, the future of the building as a Royal residence looks uncertain. As well as housing William’s family, the warren of apartments, cottages and mews houses contains the offices and homes of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent – all in their mid- to late 70s – and the Duke and Duchess of Kent, 86 and 88 respectively. About 50 present and former Royal staff also live there. A source said: ‘Charles is always talking about a slimmed-down monarchy. They could sell off the rest on long leases and generate some income. They could even flog it to a Saudi!’ Unkindly dubbed ‘The Aunt Heap’ by the Duke of Windsor, Kensington Palace has been home to Royal Family members for more than 300 years, including Princess Diana. It has an estimated value of £620 million. Another source says: ‘Apartment 1 is in great condition and Charles would be wise to make a show of getting a market rate for it. If the Cambridges relocate, it seems likely the few remaining Royals will be obliged to move on.’ The Kents recently started paying £120,000 a year rent after it was reported that the Queen had charged them just £69 a month for their grand Apartment 10. Historian Christopher Warwick said: ‘Whispers that Kensington Palace’s days as an official residence are numbered are a pointer to how many changes we are going to see when Charles becomes King. He would be wise to rent it out and hold it in reserve should he need to accommodate any Royals down the line.’ The rest of Kensington Palace is full according to an aide, who adds that work is ‘ongoing’.

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