RICHARD KAY on the Queen's decision to 'downsize' to a Sandringham farmhouse ...

Usually it is the most poignant of departures, but there will be no such wrench when the Queen leaves Balmoral later this month.

Her stay in Scotland has been all too brief and stripped of many of the pleasures that make summer days on Royal Deeside so memorable. 

Unable to welcome friends and family to stay in the castle because of Covid restrictions, she has also been deprived of the unbridled joy of the Ghillies’ Ball, the highlight of her ten-week holiday, where staff and royals let their hair down for a night of vigorous Scottish dancing.

So when she and Prince Philip say their farewells at the end of next week they will have spent little more than half their customary time north of the border. 

But in an intriguing break with tradition — and as the Mail reported yesterday — the couple will head for Wood Farm, the spacious but modestly furnished house on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk where they can live the most unassuming of lives.

Usually it is the most poignant of departures, but there will be no such wrench when the Queen (pictured with Prince Philip at Balmoral in 1975) leaves Balmoral later this month

Usually it is the most poignant of departures, but there will be no such wrench when the Queen (pictured with Prince Philip at Balmoral in 1975) leaves Balmoral later this month

There they will spend another fortnight or so before Her Majesty returns to official life at Buckingham Palace.

The five-bedroom farmhouse has often been a bolt-hole away from the formalities of Palace routine. Until the pandemic it had become Philip’s main home after his 2017 retirement from formal royal duties.

He left there in March to join the Queen at Windsor, where they spent four months together with a reduced household nicknamed HMS Bubble. Their trip to Balmoral four months later was the first time they had left Windsor since before Easter.

How significant is it then that the Queen wishes to round off her summer break with a stay at this particular spot?

It is certainly true that Wood Farm is the one royal home where the Queen feels she can escape from the pressures of monarchy and being under the spotlight.

There are far fewer of the rituals that govern her life: Philip has seen to that. The staff, for example, do not always have to wear royal livery — and it is the one residence where the Queen is likely to be seen in the kitchen.

In an intriguing break with tradition — and as the Mail reported yesterday — the couple will head for Wood Farm (pictured), the spacious but modestly furnished house on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk where they can live the most unassuming of lives

In an intriguing break with tradition — and as the Mail reported yesterday — the couple will head for Wood Farm (pictured), the spacious but modestly furnished house on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk where they can live the most unassuming of lives

The attractions of the farmhouse are not only the domestic set up but also what it means to the couple. The place represents a turning back of the clock to the early years of their marriage and Malta. It was there where Philip was posted as a naval officer and the then Princess Elizabeth, a young mother with an infant Prince Charles, worked for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

There they lived simply in a villa with sea views where the future Queen was at her happiest in the gardens she helped design. She has spoken of the two years from 1949 to 1951 on the island with affection, and as the only period in her life when she lived ‘normally’.

How poignant that after nearly 73 years of marriage they should be echoing those early days.

One way or another, the royal couple have always been a partnership. Philip has shored up the Queen at moments of family crisis, and fortified her in moments of personal doubt. Far more than the children, he was her succour or, as the Queen herself put it on their 50th anniversary, ‘my strength and stay all these years’.

Unable to welcome friends and family to stay in the castle because of Covid restrictions, she has also been deprived of the unbridled joy of the Ghillies’ Ball. Pictured: Balmoral

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