Family The Queen's hidden cottage with a dark past that now 'reminds her of Prince Philip'
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When you think of homes owned by the Royal Family, the first few that spring to mind are likely Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace, but what about the others? The Royal Family owns homes, castles and palaces all over the country with many of them being bought with private funds.
One home that is located in a secluded corner of the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk is Wood Farm and it is known for being one of the most normal houses owned by the royals. There are many historic and modern day links that stretch from The Queen's uncle Prince John to the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
It is well-known that Her Majesty has a special place in her heart for Wood Farm and treasures the private time that she spent Prince Philip before his sad death in April 2021.
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Sandringham House stands on a 20,000 estate in the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The estate also has several other buildings on the grounds, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s countryside home of Anmer Hall, Park House and York Cottage.
But there is one home on the vast estate that is tucked away from public view and has links to many famous royals.
Wood Farm is a small cottage that was built around the same time as when the main Sandringham House and was sold to and adapted for the future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.
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Since his retirement in 2017, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh spent a large majority of his time at Wood Farm, rather than staying in London. Wood Farm has also been the location where divorced spouses of royals are put up over the holiday period so they can be near their children but also not officially at the Queen’s festive holiday celebrations at Sandringham House.
It is well-known that the couple relished the time they could spend together at the secluded home. Royal biographer Robert Jobson previously explained tothat Wood Farm has long been a place of retreat for the Queen.
He said: "The Grade II-listed Wood Farm, located on a secluded part of the Queen’s Sandringham Estate looking out to sea, has long been a bolthole for the Queen and her late husband Prince Philip.
"It is where the Queen, Philip, and their four children went to relax for more than 50 years. And, of course, it is where Philip made his retirement home in his twilight years with the Queen’s blessing. The Queen was known to cook and even do dishes while she was staying there.
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"It is now the place Her Majesty, now a widow, has chosen to go for a bit of privacy and reflection after a traumatic 12 months. With its simple furnishings and open fires, it is a lot less formal than life at Windsor, Buckingham Palace and even Balmoral, although it is spacious enough. When Philip was there, he didn’t stand on ceremony and servants didn’t wear the usual royal uniforms."
While Prince Philip is certainly the most recent royal to live at Wood Farm on a permanent basis, the most notable resident was Prince John, the youngest son of King George V and Queen Mary.
Prince John Charles Francis was born on July 12, 1905 at York Cottage on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. At the time of his birth, his parents were the Prince and Princess of Wales and his grandfather was King Edward VII. He was also a great-grandson of Queen Victoria.
By his fourth birthday in 1909, John became “winsome” and “painfully slow.” That same year, he suffered his first epileptic seizure. He also began to show signs of what experts now believe was a severe form of autism.
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Although Prince John appeared in public regularly until he was 11, there were concerns for his poor behaviour - so much so, that he didn’t attend his parent’s coronation in 1911. During World War I, John saw less of his parents as they were often away on official duties. John slowly began to disappear from the public eye and no official portraits of him were commissioned after 1913.
In 1916, the prince’s epileptic seizures became more frequent and he was sent away to live with his governess Charlotte “Lala” Bill at Wood Farm, a secluded farmhouse in the corner of the Sandringham Estate. Physicians warned the family that he would likely not reach adulthood.
John spent Christmas Day in 1918 with his family at Sandringham House, but was taken back to Wood Farm in the evening.
His devoted governess, ‘Lala’ Bill, said: "We dared not let him be with his brothers and sister, because it upsets them so much, with the attacks getting so bad and coming so often."
On January 18, 1919, Prince John died in his sleep at Wood Farm following a severe seizure. He is buried at St Mary Magdalene Church in Norfolk. There are questions surrounding his isolation and whether he was locked away because his illness was seen as a weakness and jeopardised the perfect image of the Royal Family.
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