Today, Sandringham is one of the most famous royal residences in the world, and it’s hard to imagine that when Queen Victoria bought it as a wedding present for her son and his future wife in 1862 it was in a pretty ruinous and financially precarious state.
The future Edward VII and Princess Alexandra of Denmark loved this beautiful part of west Norfolk, however, and it was soon transformed into a country home fit for - well, a king, naturally. The house was completely rebuilt in a style described by architectural scholar Nikolaus Pevsner as “frenetic Jacobean” and the estate became one of the finest shoots in England.
In fact, shooting played such a part in the life of Sandringham that until 1936 it was 30 minutes ahead of GMT to maximise the hours of daylight during the season.
For the royal family, Sandringham became a much-loved personal home rather than a formal royal venue such as Windsor Castle.
George V described it as “the place I love better than anywhere else in the world” and his son was no less enthusiastic.
George VI was as devoted to the house as his father, writing to his mother Queen Mary, “I have always been so happy here, and I love the place.”
With both her grandfather and father dying at the house, it’s hardly surprising Sandringham has always been held in special regard by Queen Elizabeth II - and it’s become firmly embedded in the nation’s consciousness. The very first Christmas broadcast was made from the house in 1932, and the Queen made the first televised Christmas message from Sandringham in 1957.
First opened to the public in 1977 for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the house and 20,000 acre estate (which includes seven villages) attracts visitors from around the world throughout the year. It’s hard to believe that plans were drawn up in the 1960s to demolish Sandringham and replace it with a modern building.