Monday, December 03, 2018

Sandringham, pt1

Not Your Royal Christmas, my festive novella featuring characters from Not Your Cinderella and Not Your Prince Charming, will be out in ebook (paperback coming soon) 4th December.

Annemarie loves her husband. And her husband loves her. Those are two things she’s certain of. A third thing she’s certain of, is that he also loves someone else...

Seven years ago, Countess Annemarie married the man who would be king one day. Seven months ago, he died. But Christmas is Christmas, and she’s still a member of the Royal Family, so off she goes to Sandringham, where things are always the same. Apart from all those other Christmases, which haven’t been the same at all...

A story about how love and loyalty can sometimes be the same thing, and sometimes totally different. A story about loss and finding your place in the world. And also a story about a princess and a really hot nanny at Christmas.

 Before I wrote it, I took a trip to Sandringham, the Queen's favourite house, where the Royal Family always spend Christmas. Traditions are strongly adhered to, some of them going back to the childhood of the house's first owner, the man who would become King Edward VII. The house has not changed substantially for over a hundred years, since the Bachelor Wing replaced the bowling alley (you read that right) to the south side of the house in the 1890s.

Accordingly, here are some photos I took on my visit, with their relevance hopefully explained. Alas, you can't take pictures inside the house (although you can take a notebook--I checked!) but the guidebook has lots of photos and useful explanations and you can buy it online, and the stewards are very friendly and knowledgeable.

As you can see, the day was overcast at times, and it was nearly autumn (we had a very, very dry summer, hence the state of the grass in places). If you want to see the pictures more clearly, clicking on them will expand them.

First glimpse of Sandringham, as one enters from the famous Norwich Gates to the north of the house. The main road runs surprisingly close to the house; although it's so well shielded by trees, you wouldn't know it.

Statue of one of the Queen's favourite horses, Estimate, a champion many times over. It was sculpted by Tessa Campbell-Fraser and gifted to the Queen by the King of Bahrain in 2016.
Me in front of Estimate. Just two mares, hanging out.

The entrance and carriage circle (with the statue of the horse directly behind me). This is how a car would approach the front door.
To the left of the porte cochere as you look at it, is the Saloon, and then a private room which may be the Business Office (this may also be accessed from the staircase which I believe to be at that end of the corridor) .To the very left of the picture, behind the hedge, is the Ballroom Wing. The rooms on the right are not open to the public; but as George VI  is said to have died in the room overlooking the statue of Old Father Time purchased by his wife (the Queen Mother), I assume that to be the one upstairs on the very right (Father Time is in the formal gardens behind those hedges).
The porte cochere, which is a fancy way of saying 'porch'. The lantern hanging in the middle reminds me of a witch ball--which is used to protect a place!
It's worth noting at this point that there is a ramp covering the steps up into the house (only two or three steps) and after that, the floors are flat and fully accessible (there may be another ramp in the Gun Lobby, I think, but no steps). There's plenty of room to take a wheelchair in and around.

The front door opens directly into the Saloon, the principal living room and receiving area of the house. Pillars and screens can shield the entrance a little, but there's no hiding from the occupants if you enter that way, as all visitors will. The Saloon is decorated with C18th tapestries and has a minstrel's gallery (the stewards were unable to tell me if it was still used!), but there's also a TV hiding inside a cupboard and a jigsaw always on the go. Apparently, the Queen loves jigsaws.

From the Saloon, you cross the hallway to the Drawing Room or the Small Drawing Room (and they mean small; it's about the size of my front room and is very cosy, with a fireplace). The house is only two rooms deep.

The clock tower, overlooking the courtyard. To its right is a huge thermometer. To its left is the bow window of the Ballroom. The windows either side of the Clock Tower form the Ballroom Corridor and Gun Lobby, which lead from the original part of the house to the newer Ballroom Wing.
Behind the photo above is the Gun Lobby, which isn't a bunch of people campaigning for the right to bear arms but a section of entryway lined with shotguns and other military paraphernalia. There's a shell used in the siege of Mafeking which has now been made into a clock, for some reason.

From the Gun Lobby, you pass through the much calmer Ballroom Corridor, which is lined with family portraits, including those of Princes Albert Victor and George (the oldest two sons of Edward VI; George outlived his older brother and became George V), as they entered the Navy at the ages of 13 and 12, respectively.

The Ballroom Wing was added in 1883 when Alexandra, Princess of Wales got tired of rolling up the carpets in the Saloon when anyone wanted to dance. It has a minstrel's gallery and a curved, ornate plaster ceiling, and the walls are lined with military antiques brought back by Edward VII from a tour of India. Amongst these is a set of ceremonial elephant armour, made of silver chain mail. The Ballroom is sometimes used a cinema, and contains a leather chair embossed with Edward VII's monogram.

The house viewed from the south-west, over the lake.

The back of the house, facing west, with the Bachelor Wing on the right. The rooms open to the public are on the ground floor of the left-hand side of the building. It looks huge from here, but inside the rooms are well-proportioned and homely. Well, homely for a Queen.

A Minton porcelain charger, featuring a portrait of Alexandra, Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra; wife of Prince Albert Edward, who would become King Edward VII), in costume. I greatly admire her choice of cat.

The stables, which house a cafe and museum, mostly dedicated to the estate's vehicles. It's really interesting, but not totally relevant to my books.

The gardens, planted in an informal style and still bright with colour even on a dull day at the end of September.

A love seat overlooking the lake, hidden from the house by the rockery. Now why would that be of interest to a romantic novelist?

Queen Alexandra's nest, a folly overlooking the lake.
The folly is tiny, large enough for three or four people to stand in close proximity, which obviously makes it perfect for a couple looking for privacy. I am, obviously intending to make use of this in Not Your Knight in Shining Armour (out February).
The tiled interior of the folly. I believe that's a Dutch ship, but don't quote me. There are little benches, too.

A sundial on the end of the Bachelor Wing. The legend reads, "My time is in thy hand. Let others tell of storms and showers, I'll only count your sunny hours." As you can see from the lack of shadow, this is quite true.

A Juliet balcony on one of the rooms of the Bachelor Wing. These rooms are, I am told, often used to house family members over Christmas; and so I wrote a scene where Annemarie uses this balcony in Not Your Royal Christmas.
There's a room I found a very old photo of called the Turkish Room, which is tiled throughout and appears to be next to the Billiards Room. Also in the Bachelor Wing is a long, narrow library which, like the Turkish Room, has a curved ceiling. Part of the old bowling alley? Maybe!

The back of the Bachelor Wing, looking towards the main house.
Can you see the person walking on the very left of the photo? The greenery to her right covers part of the building which I believe to be the Billiards Room. It's not on the tour; it's right next to the Dining Room, however, and may be linked by a door or a small lobby. The Billiards Room replaced an earlier conservatory, which belonged to the house that stood here before the current one. It's possible there's also a staircase behind that door and the circular window.

An alcove outside the Billiards Room (you see, so many places for secret assignations!).

Your author on the Lawn. Proof I do my research!

The back of the house from the Lawn, the lake behind me.

The angled door on the right of this picture is directly underneath the turret with the green cupola in the middle of the house. To its left, the two windows belong to the Dining Room.
It's impossible to know for sure, but as the Dining Room is just visible through these windows, and there is a door right at the end of it, I assume that behind the angled door above is a lobby or other entrance to the Billiards Room, which sits between the main house and the Bachelor Wing.

The Dining Room is pale green, and features tapestries gifted to the Crown by the King of Spain. The table is highly polished, and as such a tablecloth is used during the day because the glare from the sun is too bright!

The place mats feature photos of the Queen's favourite horses. Apparently this was started as a joke by her trainer, and she was so delighted he kept up the tradition. Joke Christmas presents are a particular favourite of the Royals, presumably because there's not much you can get the family who have everything.

Not Your Royal Christmas features a unicorn shower cap and a cushion shaped like a poo emoji for this reason.

The Drawing Room larger bay window, where there is a grand piano. Behind the columns flanking the window is a small door to the terrace.

The Drawing Room's smaller bay window, where the Christmas tree is usually placed.
The windows above belong to the Drawing Room; the hexagonal one is right in the middle of the main house as you look at it from the back, with the larger square one to its right. Above the larger window is what appears to be a balcony, but I don't know if it's accessible from the inside.

The West Front of the house.

The West Door, with Art Nouveau fanlight.
The West Front bears the monogram of Edward VII and is dated 1908. I believe--but I'm not sure--this is the door used by the Family as they exit for church on Christmas Day, as it leads to the path going directly to the Church.
The West Front viewed from the formal gardens.

Selfie looking back over the Lawn to the house. Behind me you can see the path from the West Door down to the Church.
That's all for now, as the post is getting a bit unwieldy! Photos of the church will be in a second (shorter!) post, here .

Don't forget, you can order Not Your Royal Christmas here!

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