The life of Charles III changed forever after the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8. The 73-year-old ascended to the throne of the British monarchy upon his mother’s death, and as king of the United Kingdom, one of his first decisions was to refuse to move to Buckingham Palace, which served as Queen Elizabeth’s long-term residence.
Since 2003, Charles III and his wife Camilla, Queen Consort, have been living at Clarence House. The couple moved there a year after the death of the Queen Mother, who died in 2002, at the age of 101. The Queen Mother had lived at the residence for half a century with her youngest daughter, Princess Margaret. According to a source who spoke to the British newspaper The Sunday Times, Charles III does not want to move to Buckingham Palace because it’s not “fit for purpose in the modern world.” The royal insider said that the king “doesn’t see it as a viable future home or a house that’s fit for purpose in the modern world.”
Instead, Charles III and Camilla will divide the week between three different residences. They will spend three days a week at their main home, Clarence House, which is just 400 meters from Buckingham Palace; the remaining two weekdays at Windsor Castle; and the weekend at Sandringham House in Norfolk. This last estate is about three hours northeast of London, and is where Queen Elizabeth II spent Christmas, a custom she inherited from her father, George VI, who died there. It is not known yet if Charles III will follow this Christmas tradition, nor is it clear if he will spend his summers at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, as his mother used to do. Charles III and Camilla also have another family residence: Highgrove House, an idyllic country estate in Gloucestershire. Charles III purchased the home in 1980, and since then, has spent much time tending its grounds and gardens.
According to the source cited by The Times, Charles III has little attachment to Buckingham Palace and feels that its “upkeep, both from a cost and environmental perspective, is not sustainable.” Although the new monarch does not want to live in the palace, he will have to carry out the affairs of state from there.
What’s more, Buckingham Palace is in the middle of a long overdue refurbishment project, which is not expected to be completed until 2027. The renovations will cost British taxpayers £369 million ($423 million), a figure that has ballooned since work began in 2015. It is the first major work to be carried out at the palace since World War II, meaning wiring, pipes and heating systems need to be updated.
In 2021, The Sunday Times reported that Charles III – then Prince Charles – planned to open the royal palaces to the public when he became king, and transform “private spaces to public places.” “The prince wants to bring people in to connect with the institution. He recognizes it needs to keep evolving, and in the modern era people want to be able to access their palaces,” a royal source told the outlet.
In the summer of 2021, the gardens of Buckingham Palace were opened to the public for the first time, but it was met with negative reviews on TripAdvisor, with visitors describing the experience as “disappointing” and criticizing the “overpriced” tickets.
When Elizabeth II became queen after her father’s deaths, she also resisted moving from Clarence House to Buckingham Palace, according to royal biographer Penny Junor. In her book, The Firm, Junor said that the queen and her husband, Philip of Edinburgh, only moved upon the insistence of then-British prime minister Winston Churchill.
In March 2022, Queen Elizabeth II decided to leave Buckingham Palace for good and settle permanently in Windsor Castle, a smaller palace further away from tourists. Although the change of residence became final in 2022, the monarch had been living in Windsor since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it was also the place where her husband died.