How Princess Charlotte’s Birth Transformed the Modern Monarchy

Just over a year ago, Prince William moved his family far from the spotlight, to Anmer Hall, in remote Norfolk, where he and Kate have worked hard to create a cocoon of normalcy for two-year-old George and the baby princess, Charlotte. Katie Nicholl reports on their well-hidden idyll and the controversy over William’s decision to put his family first.


Then the photographs marking her first birthday were released, last month, it was a rare glimpse of Princess Charlotte. Just 48 hours after she was born, on May 2, 2015, her father, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, packed up his family and drove 100 miles from their official residence, Kensington Palace, in London, to Anmer Hall, in Norfolk, where they have been enjoying a quiet country life ever since. Unlike previous generations of heirs, William, second in line to the throne, has chosen to raise his young family away from the glare of the spotlight, in one of the most remote parts of England.

“It’s no secret that William doesn’t like the media intrusion into his life, and in the country he can escape,” says a family friend. “The Queen and the Prince of Wales have given their blessing for William to live this life, and William is very grateful. It’s enabling him and Kate to raise their family in a way that’s as close to ordinary as they can get.” Says another royal source, “William doesn’t want George and Charlotte going through some of the experiences he went through growing up. Everything he does regarding his family is very deliberate.”

Embargoed to 0001 BST Thursday April 21, 2016. Conditions of use: This image may be used free of charge, internationally, for 21 days from release, until 12th May 2016. For use or reproduction in any format on any platform after this date, please refer to Royal Communications for approval. This official photograph, released by Buckingham Palace to mark her 90th birthday, shows Queen Elizabeth II with her five great-grandchildren and her two youngest grandchildren in the Green Drawing Room, part of Windsor Castle's semi-State apartments. The children are: James, Viscount Severn (left), 8, and Lady Louise (second left), 12, the children of The Earl and Countess of Wessex; Mia Tindall (holding The Queen's handbag), the two year-old-daughter of Zara and Mike Tindall; Savannah (third right), 5, and Isla Phillips (right), 3, daughters of The Queen's eldest grandson Peter Phillips and his wife Autumn; Prince George (second right), 2, and in The Queen's arms and in the tradition of Royal portraiture, the youngest great-grandchild, Princess Charlotte (11 months), children of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

William and his brother, Harry, spent many happy weekends during their childhood at Anmer Hall, a Georgian manor house—built in 1802—when their family friends the Van Cutsems were renting it, from 1990 to 2000. The Queen, who traditionally spends Christmas and the New Year at nearby Sandringham House, gave Anmer to William and Kate as a wedding present.

Shielded from the outside world by cast-iron security gates, a network of cameras, and a drive lined with 12-foot-high conifers, Anmer Hall is both imposing and well hidden. A no-fly zone over the property—which includes a swimming pool and an artificial-grass tennis court—was imposed last year at the Duke’s request. Unmarked police cars patrol the perimeter. While it may look like a fortress from the outside, inside, according to those who have visited, it is a warm and welcoming family home—the setting for a happy, relaxed, and paparazzi-free childhood for Princess Charlotte and her big brother, Prince George, who is about to turn three.

Their mother, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, runs the 10-bedroom house with just a handful of domestic staff, including full-time nanny Maria Borallo and a housekeeper. Aides insist there is no in-house chef—Kate loves to cook, and she has been spotted buying local produce at Back to the Garden. Occasionally, she sends the family’s bodyguards out to do the grocery shopping at the local shops. Mealtimes are hectic family occasions with pots of food served straight to the table. (Like most little boys, George prefers French fries to vegetables.) Kate and William take turns giving the children their baths and putting them to bed. (George’s favorite bedtime story is The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson, and he is a fan of the TV series Fireman Sam.) Lupo, the family’s cocker spaniel, has free run of the house (it may be assumed that new hamster Marvin is a little more penned in), and there is a constant stream of visitors up and down the gravel drive.



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