If you thought Meghan’s choice to employ Soho House’s interior designer, Vicky Charles, to work on Frogmore Cottage was rather outré, you can rest assured there have been some far more eccentric Royal designs in years gone by. Here are six of the best:
Y Bwthyn Bach
Queen Elizabeth II was lucky enough to receive her very first home all to herself when she was just a six-year-old Princess. Y Bwthn Bach, or ‘The Little House’, was a birthday gift to Princess Elizabeth from the people of Wales, built to two-fifths scale complete with electricity, running water, miniature furniture and a thatched roof. Effectively a giant Wendy House, it was Princess Elizabeth and Margaret’s favourite toy for many years, and remains standing in the grounds of The Royal Lodge, where it is still used by the young Royals of today.
Royal Pavilion, Brighton
At first glance it might be mistaken for the Taj Mahal, but the ornate Royal Pavilion in Brighton is as British as they come, despite its Indo-Islamic exterior. The Pavilion was built by the famously extravagant Prince of Wales (later King George IV) between 1787 and 1822, by incrementally expanding the farmhouse that originally occupied the land. The building was first expanded by designer Henry Holland, then by designer John Nash, who added the intricate elements visible today. The interior was given an exotic flavour by Frederick Crace, whose designs took inspiration from China and India.
Falkland Palace Royal Tennis Court, Scotland
It may not be the most aesthetically pleasing of features, but the Royal Tennis Court at Falkland Palace in Scotland is the oldest tennis court still in use today – having been built for King James V of Scotland in 1541. The court is designed for an arcane, more complex version of the game called ‘real tennis’, with its own very specific design: four walls, one of which contains a number of openings that provide additional point-scoring opportunities.
Although Prince Charles doesn’t live there himself, the future king built this experimental town from scratch on the outskirts of Dorchester. Construction began in 1993 on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall; 26 years later, Poundbury has a population of 3000, occupying buildings designed in Charles’s favoured Georgian and Germanic styles. There are 180 local businesses (including, of course, a Waitrose), a school, the Queen Mother Square (pictured above) and a pub called the Duchess of Cornwall Inn – named after Charles’s beloved Camilla.
Chinese Village, Tsarskoe Selo, Russia
Over in 18th century Russia, Catherine the Great’s fondness for the then-popular fashion of Chinoiserie (the European interpretation of Chinese and East Asian artistic traditions) prompted her to order the building of a Chinese Village in Tsarkoye Selo’s Alexandra Park. She was unable to obtain a Chinese architect, so instead ordered the Russian ambassador in London to procure a replica of the pagoda in Kew Gardens for the central structure of her Chinese Village. The village was expected to contain 18 houses in total, but construction was abandoned once Catherine died, leaving only 10 houses standing today.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany
This is a true fairytale castle, and serves as the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castles at Disney theme parks around the world. Construction began in 1868, at the behest of eccentric King Ludwig II, with its gothic style and interior paintings painstakingly designed to reflect the epic operas of his favourite composer: Richard Wagner. The precarious location of the castle on a rugged hilltop saw upwards of 30 deaths during the construction process, and Ludwig II himself died too before its completion, albeit in far more mysterious circumstances; ruled suicide by drowning, but with no water found in his lungs.
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