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The Prince of Wales has taken up residence in Clarence House, where his grandmother, the beloved Queen Mother, lived from 1953 until her death last year. Camilla Parker Bowles has her own apartment in Clarence House, a newly decorated suite with a fine view, the same rooms the Queen Mother once occupied. To those miffed ones who take umbrage at her choice of this particular apartment (they have been described as senior courtiers), who feel the rooms should remain sacrosanct, the message is: Find something better to do with your time. What is supposed to be done with the suite? Lock the door and throw away the key? Prince William and Prince Harry also will live there when they are in London. Do the courtiers have a problem with that?
Clarence House, innately beautiful, filled as it is with much of the Queen Mother’s private collection of magnificent furniture, tapestries, carpets and paintings, is even lovelier now that it has been refurbished, leaving intact unique personal and historical objects that tell the story of this great lady’s full life. The designer, Robert Kime, worked closely with Prince Charles on the project, which included the light-filled Money Room, the Library and the Formal Dining Room. Clarence House may be palatial, but it is not a palace. Despite its soaring rooms and gracious spaces, it is basically a home, a luxurious home with family portraits on the wall, flowering plants everywhere and plump pillows on the sofas.
The house, steeped in history, was built between 1825 and 1828 by the great architect, John Nash, for William, Duke of Clarence, hence its name. When William became King William IV, he and his Queen Adelaide continued to live there — Buckingham Palace was not yet finished — and a connecting gallery was built between Clarence House and their adjoining quarters in magnificent St. James’s Palace.
When William died in 1837, it became his sister Princess Augusta’s home, and then that of the Duchess of Kent, who was Queen Victoria’s mother. Later, two of Victoria’s sons, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, lived there until Arthur died in 1942. During World War II, Clarence House became the headquarters of the Red Cross, and when the war was over and the bomb damage repaired, the young Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, lived there until 1952 when she became Queen Elizabeth II. Princess Margaret also lived there from 1952 until she married.