York Cottage: The Haunting History Of Harry And Meghan’s New Country Home

prince harry meghan markle

by Katie Rosseinsky |
Published on

No one does wedding gifts like Her Majesty. Though her grandson Prince Harry and his new wife Meghan Markle asked for charitable donations to celebrate their marriage, in lieu of actual presents, the Queen plays by her own rules. Not only has she conferred a shiny new Dukedom and a handful of titles upon the newly-weds (making them Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Earl and Countess of Dumbarton, Baron and Baroness Kilkeel), the monarch is also set to provide them with a stately home on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk (because one residence is never enough).

Earlier this month, reports suggested that York Cottage has been earmarked by Her Majesty as a suitable property for the Sussexes (just as Anmer Hall was assigned for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge after their wedding). Built to house the overflow of extra guests at Sandringham during the hunting season and originally known as the Bachelor’s Cottage (because the majority of said guests were unmarried), it currently acts as a base for the estate’s office, with part of the building converted into flats for staff, meaning that extensive renovations would be required should Harry and Meghan choose to move in. The newlyweds, however, might also be a little perturbed to learn of the house’s dark associations with one of the most notorious royals of recent history.

Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, the Duke of Clarence and Avondale known as Eddy to his family, was the eldest son of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra – and arguably York Cottage’s most infamous inhabitant. Often touted as ‘the worst king we never had’ (a dubious honour if there ever was one), Eddy’s short life was plagued by the sort of scandal that makes all the back and forth about Thomas Markle’s royal wedding no-show look spectacularly tame. When he reached 20, there were reports of a secret marriage to an artist’s model. Then there was the affair with chorus girl Lydia Miller (who later committed suicide); there was the rumoured involvement in the Cleveland Street Scandal (a shocking episode which centred around a police raid of a male brothel) and whispers (albeit whispers that were later disproved) that he might actually be Jack the Ripper.

york cottage sandringham

When the royals eventually found a suitable bride for this undisputed catch (distant cousin Princess Mary of Teck was somehow corralled into the role of royal fiancée), the Prince caught influenza. Allegedly weakened by gonorrhoea, he died soon after at the age of 28. In a plot twist straight out of the royal family’s own playbook (Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, anyone?), Eddy’s younger brother George, the new heir to the throne, proposed to his dead brother’s fiancée. In another plot twist, she accepted (which is perhaps why she seems so miserable and foreboding in the first season of The Crown...)

The couple carried on living in Eddy’s former residence, leaving his room just as it had been during his lifetime. ‘All was left just as it was,’ the Empress of Prussia wrote in a letter at the time. ‘[His] dressing table with his watch, his brushes and combs […] His bed covered with a Union Jack in silk, and his photos and clothes in a glass cupboard.’ It’s this uncanny set-up that led to reports of York Cottage being haunted by its notorious former tenant – and since George (by this time King George V) swapped the house for Sandringham in 1925, no royal has lived there.

As far as back stories go, then, York Cottage's isn't exactly the most promising. But surely there's nothing that brings a couple together like being haunted by the memory of a dissolute ancestor, hey Harry and Meghan?

Look back at royal wedding dresses through history in the gallery below...


Royal wedding dresses through history - Grazia

Royal wedding dresses1 of 18

Queen Victoria, 1840

Queen Victoria is one of just two British Queens to have married while reigning (the other is Queen Mary). For her wedding to Prince Albert at St James' Palace, the young Queen chose a simple off-the-shoulder style in white satin, with a flounce of Honiton lace at the neckline. Instead of a coronet, she wore a simple orange blossom garland.

Royal wedding dresses2 of 18

Victoria, Princess Royal, 1858

Princess Victoria, daughter of Queen Victoria, wed Prince Frederick William of Prussia, in January 1858 wearing a rich white moire antique decorated with three flounces of Honiton lace designed to resemble bouquets of rose, shamrock and thistle in three medallions. Each flounce of the dress had a wreath of orange and myrtle blossoms, which were the bridal flower of Germany.

Royal wedding dresses3 of 18

Princess Beatrice, 1885

For her wedding to Prince Henry of Battenberg in 1885, Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria, wore a fashionable white satin dress, trimmed with lace (which the Princess is said to have loved) and orange blossom. She was the only of Victoria's daughters to wear her mother's veil down the aisle, too.

Royal wedding dresses4 of 18

Princess Mary of Teck, Queen consort, 1893

The future Queen Mary's wedding dress was designed by Arthur Silver of the Silver Studio, whose designs epitomised the Art Nouveau look. Her classic gown was embroidered with roses, shamrocks and thistles, with the choice of orange blossom for the trim echoed in small wreaths adorning her neckline and her hair. Her 'something old' was a small piece of Honiton lace from her mother's own wedding gown, with diamond jewellery from future mother-in-law Queen Victoria ticking off 'something borrowed.'

Royal wedding dresses5 of 18

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother, 1923

The future Queen Mother's wedding dress was quintessentially 1920s in style, with a simple drop waist. Designed by Madame Handley-Seymour, the dressmaker to Queen Mary, it was made of ivory silk crepe and embroidered with pearls. Her Flanders lace veil was held in place by a wreath of orange blossom and white roses, the latter a nod to the her future title of Duchess of York.

Royal wedding dresses6 of 18

Queen Elizabeth II, 1947

Court couturier Norman Hartnell described the wedding gown of the then-Princess Elizabeth as 'the most beautiful dress I had so far made.' Patterned with stars and floral embellishments, the dress – and its 13 foot train – was said to be inspired by Botticelli's Primavera, and to symbolise the nation's rebirth following the war. As clothing rationing was still in place (even for a Princess), Elizabeth had to purchase the fabric with ration coupons (though she was inundated with coupons from young women across the country, she had to return them to their owners).

Royal wedding dresses7 of 18

Princess Margaret, 1960

When Princess Margaret married photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones, she opted for a design by royal couturier Norman Hartnell. Comprising 30 metres of silk organza, the dress's simple shape and clean lines were designed to flatter the Princess's petite frame.

Royal wedding dresses8 of 18

Princess Anne, 1973

Ahead of her marriage to Captain Mark Phillips, Princess Anne seemed to take sartorial inspiration from times past, specifically the court of Queen Elizabeth I: her wedding gown, designed by Maureen Baker for Susan Small, featured a Tudor-style high neck and sweeping, almost medieval sleeves.

Royal wedding dresses9 of 18

Diana, Princess of Wales, 1981

Lady Diana Spencer's now-iconic 1981 wedding dress set bridal trends for years to come, with its puffed sleeves, 25-foot train and full skirt. Designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, the ivory silk taffeta gown was embellished with tiny sequins and pearls in a heart motif.

Royal wedding dresses10 of 18

Sarah, Duchess of York, 1986

Lindka Cierach designed this quintessentially '80s wedding dress for Sarah Ferguson's wedding to Prince Andrew. Made from ivory duchesse satin, it boasted a 17 foot long train embroidered with bees and thistles (a nod to her family's crest) and anchors and waves (symbolizing Prince Andrew's naval career). The York Diamond tiara which Fergie wore on the day was commissioned especially for her by her mother-in-law, the Queen.

Royal wedding dresses11 of 18

Sophie, Countess of Wessex, 1999

Samantha Shaw was tasked with designing and making a dress for the wedding of Sophie Rhys-Jones (now the Countess of Wessex) to the Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward. The long-sleeved style was embellished with 325,000 cut glass and pearl beads.

Royal wedding dresses12 of 18

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, 2005

Camilla's embroidered coat in pale blue and gold and matching chiffon gown were designed by Robinson Valentine for her wedding to the Prince of Wales at St George's Chapel, Windsor. Her statement headpiece – which featured Swarowski diamonds – was the handiwork of the royal family's favourite milliner, Philip Treacy.

Royal wedding dresses13 of 18

Autumn Phillips, 2008

Canadian-born Autumn Kelly opted for a classic gown by British designer Sassi Holford, which featured a bodice fashioned from hand-beaded lace and a silk duchesse skirt, worn with a beaded shrug. The Festoon tiara which the bride wore on the day was borrowed from the collection of her mother-in-law, Princess Anne.

Royal wedding dresses14 of 18

Zara Tindall, 2011

Zara Phillips wore a simple, classic gown with a full skirt and corseted bodice by Stewart Parvin, one of her grandmother the Queen's favourite couturiers, when she married rugby player Mike Tindall at Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh. The diamond tiara was the bride's 'something borrowed,' a loan from her mother Princess Anne.

Royal wedding dresses15 of 18

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, 2011

Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen landed the biggest fashion gig of the century so far when she was chosen by Kate Middleton to design a dress for her Westminster Abbey wedding to Prince William. The gown itself was made from ivory satin with long lace sleeves and floral motifs which were cut from machine-made lace then appliqued onto silk net by workers at the Royal School of Needlework.

Royal wedding dresses16 of 18

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, 2018

We all know that Givenchy's Clare Waight Keller designed Meghan Markle's wedding dress, but there's a fun fact about the detailing. The flowers embroidered into the veil represent the 53 nations of the Commonwealth, a nod to Prince Harry's role as Youth Ambassador.

Royal wedding dresses17 of 18

Princess Eugenie of York, 2018

Princess Eugenie had a very particular request when it came to her wedding dress, which designer Peter Pilotto accommodated. He designed her dress with a low-back as to reveal the scars from her scoliosis surgery.

Royal wedding dresses18 of 18

Lady Gabriella Windsor, 2019

Lady Gabriella Windsor walked down the aisle in a Luisa Beccaria gown, which as made "entirely in Valencienne écru lace layered with ribbons of flowers and buds" says the designer.

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