A version of this story appeared in the March 11 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
Think of the Queen and you think of Buckingham Palace. It’s up there with the White House as one of the world’s most celebrated addresses.
Generally, tourists take a cab or a bus, hop off to take a picture of the famous railings, maybe sticking around for the changing of the guard just before lunchtime, and then head on to the next destination on their list. So, why the fascination, especially when most people don’t even go inside?
They come because it’s home to the living, breathing British monarchy and they grew up seeing it in movies and history books.
None of that has changed. This is still the Queen’s head office but she doesn’t stay overnight anymore. She has, to all intents and purposes, moved to what used to be her weekend home at Windsor Castle. Some reports this week have suggested the move is permanent.
The Queen’s office at Buckingham Palace declined to comment, but a royal source told us she continues to carry out a variety of engagements there and confirmed it remains the central base of the British monarchy.
The source also pointed out that the ongoing Buckingham Palace refurb is expected to continue for another five years, and who wants to live in a building site? When we’ve been behind the scenes, the place is awash with builders, tools and pots of paint – a world away from the peaceful medieval grandeur of Windsor. Where would you prefer to spend your latter years?
The bigger question is what Charles plans to do with the palace. His office rarely comments on matters relating to his own monarchy as it would be insensitive to his mother who is still very much the sovereign.
He also prefers life outside the capital. He’s passionate about walking and the countryside and spends as much time as possible in the tranquility of his rural residence in the rolling hills of Gloucestershire in the English West Country. If he inherits Buckingham Palace as an office rather than a residence, he may choose to keep it that way.
Charles could demonstrate his desire for a leaner, more efficient monarchy by opening the building up for wider public use. He could rent it out for events and exhibitions.
When you consider Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms, including 19 state rooms, 240 bedrooms and 92 offices, it probably could be used more effectively than it has in the past.
But would you, as a tourist, visit an office? Isn’t it the idea that the Queen actually lives there that is appealing about the place? She could tweak a curtain or drive out at any moment… that’s what makes it so exciting to be there.
What do you think Charles should do with the palace? Send us your ideas and we will publish the most interesting ones in next week’s newsletter.
Normally the fact that the monarch completed her first in-person appearance after a bout of illness would be front page news over here. However, with the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine, attention was quite rightly diverted when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stopped by Windsor Castle on Monday.
Photographs of the pair in the now-familiar Oak Room showed Trudeau clasping the Queen’s hands as they appeared to chat and laugh together.
But it was the background that garnered the most attention from the engagement. Eagle-eyed royal-watchers spotted a large bouquet of blue and yellow flowers – the colors of the Ukrainian flag – on a table behind the pair. It’s been seen by many as a very deliberate choice of set dressing by the monarch to quietly convey her support to the people of Ukraine.
It wouldn’t be unheard of for the Queen to give subtle hints at her thinking – she’s certainly done it in the past. This latest possible example also follows her “generous” but private donation last week to an emergency humanitarian appeal currently operating in the UK.
Trudeau journeyed to Europe on Sunday for a week of meetings designed to “further strengthen Canada’s solidarity with our European partners and allies in the face of Russia’s unwarranted invasion of Ukraine.” Following his stop in London, the Canadian Prime Minister – who himself recently recovered from coronavirus – traveled on to Latvia, Germany and Poland.
How to help: Looking for ways to help those affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine? Organizations are on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries to help with shelter, food, water and additional aid. Head here to find out how to help.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
William caught up in social media storm. What exactly did he say about war in Europe?
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Wednesday came laden with homemade brownies and granola bars from Kensington Palace for volunteers at a Ukrainian cultural center in London, which has been collecting donations for the war-torn nation.
The couple learned about how the Ukrainian Social Club is coordinating relief packages, handling the generous outpouring of public offerings it has received and the distribution challenges in funneling aid back to Ukraine.
The royal couple conveyed their shock at Russia’s unfolding invasion and revealed their children have been asking them about the conflict. “Everyone is horrified by what they are seeing. It’s really horrifying. The news every day, it’s just, it’s almost unfathomable,” William said. “For our generation, it’s very alien to see this happening in Europe. But we’re all right behind you. We’re thinking about you … We feel so useless.”
In the hours after the engagement, “Prince William” was trending on social media after the royal’s remarks were incorrectly paraphrased by the royal pool journalist, who had filed copy saying William had compared the war in Europe to conflicts in Asia and Africa.
The pool system means British reporters take turns covering engagements and share information and photos among the group so that events can be widely reported by all outlets. Once the misheard remarks were distributed through the pool, they were widely used in various publications, before going viral on social platforms.
By Thursday afternoon, video of the moment surfaced from broadcaster ITV clarifying William had never made such a reference. Media outlets issued corrections and online articles were removed or amended.
Refugees could help Britain’s skills shortage, Charles says.
The Prince of Wales has spoken of “enormous benefits” possessed by many refugees escaping their war-ravaged homelands. Charles was visiting St. Luke’s Church in west London on Wednesday to learn more about the Holy Trinity Brompton’s Refugee Response program, launched in September to help support Afghan arrivals to the UK.
During the visit, Charles told refugees from countries including Afghanistan, Ukraine, Iraq and Iran that he couldn’t “begin to imagine the dreadful conditions” they had endured to reach the UK. The heir to the throne said he prayed they had been welcomed and that they bring much-needed skills to the country.
“I know so many of you already have qualifications, training in your own countries, and we have enormous skill shortages in this country, where so much of what you can do could be of enormous benefit to it. We are very lucky in many ways to have you and your skills and all you can bring,” he said.
When Camilla met “Camilla.”
The Duchess of Cornwall opened the doors of Clarence House Tuesday for a special celebration to mark International Women’s Day, welcoming guests to her London residence as president of WOW – Women of the World Festival.
She was met by Jude Kelly, the founder and CEO of the WOW Foundation, before mingling with invitees and taking part in a group photo. Among the guests were Inna Prystaiko, wife of Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, former British Prime Minister Theresa May and Spice Girl Mel B.
Camilla also had a bit of a royal run-in when the duchess met her television alter ego, Emerald Fennell, at the event. Fennell portrayed a fictionalized version of a young Camilla in Netflix’s most recent season of “The Crown.” Rumors about the family’s feelings on the hit series have swirled for years but Camilla was nothing but smiles during the encounter.
While at the event, she also got the chance to catch up with three female Afghan judges, who were evacuated from the country along with 100 others by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, as the Taliban returned to power last year. “Their stories, of the humanity behind the headlines, are unbearably moving – but they must, and they do, have the power to stir us to action, as do the heart-breaking stories from Ukraine of brutal attacks on democracy and freedom,” the duchess said at the WOW reception.
DID YOU KNOW?
Prince Andrew civil sex abuse case is officially over.
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan officially dismissed Virginia Giuffre’s sexual abuse lawsuit against the Duke of York Tuesday after attorneys for both parties submitted a stipulation to the court asking for a dismissal. David Boies, an attorney for Giuffre, confirmed Prince Andrew had paid the agreed settlement. That dollar figure has not been disclosed. “The payment was received, the settlement we announced last month has been completed. We are obviously very pleased with the outcome,” Boies said. CNN has reached out to counsel for Prince Andrew for comment.
The parties reached an out-of-court settlement agreement in February, which included Andrew’s payment of an undisclosed amount to Giuffre and her charity supporting victims’ rights, according to court documents.
In the lawsuit, Giuffre alleged Epstein trafficked her and forced her to have sex with his friends, including Andrew, and that the prince was aware she was underage in the US at the time. Andrew has repeatedly denied the allegations against him. (Reporting from CNN’s Lauren del Valle)
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Prince Charles, who has been Colonel of the Welsh Guards since 1975, happily chats with a soldier from the Prince of Wales Company while visiting the Combermere Barracks in Windsor on Tuesday. The 73-year-old inspected soldiers before presenting them with “Operation Shader” medals, following their deployment to Iraq.
IN THE ROYAL DIARY
March 14: Members of the royal family will come together for the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in London on Monday. The service – which will be the first in-person gathering of the Commonwealth since coronavirus struck – will pay tribute to the Queen’s life-long commitment to the 54-member organization. Lord Bishop Sentamu, former Archbishop of York, will give an address, with musical performances from Emeli Sandé and Mica Paris, according to Buckingham Palace. Later Monday, Prince Charles and Camilla will attend the annual Commonwealth reception at Marlborough House.
March 17: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are planning to attend the St. Patrick’s Day Parade at Mons Barracks in Aldershot, England on Thursday. It will be their first appearance at the event since the start of the pandemic, and the couple will visit the 1st Battalion Irish Guards.
The four paid tribute to the monarch on International Women’s Day in a rare joint post shared simultaneously from their official Instagram accounts. Check out the accompanying carousel of snaps here.