Charles III retires to his beloved Highgrove estate

As the King seeks refuge at Highgrove, how the Cotswolds bolthole has become his ‘sanctuary’ after buying it before his marriage to Diana – and holds happy memories of his boys as children and days in the garden with Camilla

  • King Charles will spend 24 hours at his private Highgrove estate in a ‘private day of reflection’
  • The Queen Consort is thought to be at her own residence, Ray Mill House in Reybridge near Lacock, Wiltshire
  • The King is not expected to attend any public events on Thursday, before a busy run up to Monday’s funeral
  • The Queen’s funeral: All the latest Royal Family news and coverage

It has been a gruelling few days for King Charles III – not only grieving his beloved mother the Queen but also visiting both Scotland and Northern Ireland, addressing the nation and attending the late monarch’s lying in state service. 

But for the next 24 hours, he will get a much needed reprieve – spending a ‘private day of reflection’ to gather his thoughts alone while at his beloved Highgrove estate, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire.

For, just as the late Queen loved her private residence of Balmoral in the wilds of the Scottish Cairngorms, so the new King seeks solace in his gentle 18th century Cotswolds estate, which is something of a sanctuary for the new monarch.

Indeed, it was the first marital home of Charles and Diana, and where the couple spent most weekends with the young Prince William and Harry. But of course, the estate was always close to Camilla’s personal home Ray Mill House in Reybridge near Lacock, Wiltshire – and is now a place the King and his Queen Consort deeply cherish. 

A general view of the gardens at Highgrove House on June 2013. The gardens have been transformed by the King over the past four decades and now attract 30,000 visitors a year

Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana with Prince William and Harry in the gardens of Highgrove. Diana was said to detest the rural retreat

Charles and Camilla, pictured during her 60th birthday party at Highgrove in July 2007. Camilla reportedly enjoys the gardens at Tetbury, along with her husband

The then-prince enjoying his wild garden and spring time daffodils on his estate in April 2022. The gardens now boast many rare trees and flowers 

The estate, of course, boasts a residence of suitable stature for any reigning monarch. A nine-bedroom, six-bathroom mansion, and once home of Maurice Macmillan, son of the former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, it has beautiful interiors by the late decorator Robert Kime. 

But the property is also as modern and environmentally-friendly as possible, being fitted with solar panels and a natural sewage filtering system, no doubt on the King’s demands. 

Yet it is the gardens that are perhaps the most important aspect to the estate – and may be where the King seeks his private solace to grieve his mother alone. 

For they have long been a key labour of love for Charles; when he bought the 18th Century home in 1980, they were unkempt and overgrown, according to the Mirror.  

But over the past four decades, with the help of highly regarded gardeners like Rosemary Verey and Miriam Rothschild, he has transformed them. 

Prince Charles and Princess Diana pictured here in the wildflower meadow of Highgrove with their two young boys. The family spent most weekends here when the children were young

Princess Diana pictured in 1986 on the steps of the country home. She was dressed casually in pink gingham trousers and a matching pink jumper. Although she appears happy she was said to dislike Highgrove 

Prince Charles tending his herb garden at Highgrove in 1986. The King has long spoken of his love of nature and the need to care for the environment

Not only are there large numbers of rare trees, flowers and heirloom seeds, there is also a wild garden, a formal garden and a walled kitchen garden.

Another haven is the Woodland Garden featuring two classical temples made from green oak and a stumpery – a garden feature similar to a rockery but made from parts of dead trees, especially stumps. 

So impressive are these gardens they now attract 30,000 visitors a year, with tours taking just under two hours. 

But to the King, they are clearly more than a visitor attraction; they are a place to ‘soothe’ the soul.

In the 2014 book, Highgrove: A Garden Celebrated, Charles wrote his efforts represented ‘…one very small attempt to heal the appalling short-sighted damage done to the soil, the landscape and our own souls’.

He added: ‘Some may not like it, others may scoff that it is not in the real world or it is merely an expensive indulgence. Whatever the case, my enduring hope is that those who visit the garden may find something to inspire, excite, fascinate or soothe them’.

Paying further homage to them, the King recently created a perfume with the help of British perfume house Penhaligon’s inspired by the floral scents of summer. 

Called Penhaligons Highgrove Bouquet Eau de Parfum, it is described as a ‘crisp, confident burst of warm energy’ opening with ‘vibrant lavender and geranium’ with the odour of ‘blossoming weeping silver lime’.

So important are these gardens and outdoor space, the King has added to the estate over the years and now owns around 1,900 acres of strictly organically-farmed land. 

King Charles and the Queen Consort land in a helicopter in Wiltshire following the lying in state service for the Queen. The aircraft was seen landing in a field next door to Camilla’s Ray Mill House in Reybridge near the village of Lacock at around 4.30pm

The King was then seen driving himself away from Camilla’s Wiltshire estate accompanied by The Met’s Special Escort Group after dropping her off. He then drove to his Highgrove House, near Tetbury in Gloucestershire 

A sorrowful King Charles III waves to the crowds as he is driven along The Mall to Buckingham Palace ahead of the procession for his late mother 

But as soothing as these gardens are, there is more to Highgrove that has helped lodge it so deep in the King’s heart.  

For – like Balmoral to the Queen – Highgrove is brimming with memories and family connections.  Princess Anne, for instance, the King’s sister, lives six miles away at Gatcombe Park, while Camilla’s private home, Ray Mill House, in Wiltshire is just a thirty-minute drive away. 

Indeed, it is here where the Queen Consort is spending today – while her husband has his day of reflection alone. 

Following Charles’ first marriage to Princess Diana in 1980, it became their marital and later family home. After Prince William and Harry were born, the family spent most weekends there, with Diana voicing her dislike for the countryside retreat. 

She preferred the city life available to her from Kensington, but she also reportedly disliked the Gloucestershire home as it was so close to Camilla, who lived nearby.

Andrew Morton wrote in his tell-all biography Diana: Her True Story, that Diana referred to her trips to their Gloucestershire home as ‘a return to prison’ and ‘rarely invited her family or friends’.

Camilla, the new Queen Consort, pictured at Highgrove in July 2022 to mark her 75th birthday. She is said to enjoy gardening at the estate 

Camilla’s Wiltshire residence, Ray Mill House (pictured). It is thought that the Queen Consort is spending time here while the King spends 24 hours at Highgrove in private reflection

The King was seen driving into his estate in Highgrove, Gloucestershire, accompanied by Met Police officers. The King is expected to have a quiet day of reflection and is not expected to attend any public events

Of course, since Diana’s tragic death and Charles’ subsequent marriage to Camilla in 2005, Highgrove has become a popular base for the couple when they do not have royal engagements in London. 

Handily, Camilla shares a love of gardening with her husband. She recently told Homes and Gardens magazine how much she enjoyed planting, weeding and just being creative. 

She said, ‘It’s just one of the most relaxing things anyone can do. Go into the garden, get on with it.’

Until now, the couple have split their time between Highgrove, London’s Clarence House and Llwynywermod in Wales.

But now that Charles has ascended the throne, there is a possibility that Highgrove could become his preferred royal residency and Buckingham Palace could simply become ‘a flat above the shop’, according to the Daily Mail.

Interestingly, however – at the very time that the property becomes most important to the king – it is being passed on. 

As it is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, William is set to inherit the property now that Charles is the monarch.

As William will become his father’s landlord, the new King will be expected to pay around £700,000 a year in rent.

It is a peculiar quirk of the complicated royal finances. But it is no doubt a small price to pay for somewhere that brings the King so much comfort – particularly now in his greatest time of need.

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