Honing in on a difficult period for the royal family, a year dubbed as “annus horribilis” by Queen Elizabeth herself, The Crown Season 5 is an intense watch. The 1990s saw a number of royal marriages breakdown, including the very public messiness that ensued as the then Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s relationship fell apart. Whilst Season 4 set the scene for their separation, this instalment touches upon Charles’ groundbreaking infidelity confession and Diana’s tell-all BBC Panorama interview that ultimately became the final straw.
After years of feuding and separation, the royal couple were officially divorced in 1996. The previous Princess of Wales lost her HRH title, the majority of her staff, some of her security, and a huge chunk of her travel budget. But one of the most pressing questions is a practical one, where did Diana live after her divorce from Charles?
The Princess lived in regal estates for most of her life. She was born in Park House, a part of the royal family’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, and then moved to Clarence House during her engagement to Charles. After their marriage in 1981, the couple stayed in Apartments 8 and 9 in Kensington Palace, the Jacobean mansion where their kids, Prince William and Prince Harry, were then raised.
As per the royal agreements following the divorce, Diana continued to live in Kensington Palace which she often called her “fortress.” When living on her own, she restricted her staff to a handful including a cleaner, cook, a dresser, with butler Paul Burrell becoming the house manager. In an interview with Vanity Fair, he said he was “personal assistant, driver, delivery boy, confidant, and even a shoulder to cry on” to the Princess.
“Her first decision was to throw out the mahogany double bed she had slept in at Kensington Palace since her wedding eleven years before. Then she had the bedroom painted and new locks fitted, and changed her private telephone number. Her new life alone had begun,” Andrew Morton, the author of Diana: Her True Story later wrote.
After Prince Charles moved out, he split his time between Highgrove House — the couple’s countryside home in Gloucestershire — and Clarence House where he attended to royal engagements. Even through their relationship, Charles was known to favour Highgrove House, a nine-bedroom mansion where the former couple often spent their weekends. However, Morton, wrote that Diana despised the space and called it a “return to prison,” partly because Camilla lived down the road.
Burrell also revealed that one of his most cherished memories was of seeing Diana take out the bicycle with William and Harry when they visited on weekends. At the time of their parents’ separation, both princes were already in boarding school and so split their vacation time between Kensington Palace and Highgrove House. Burrell added that in the months before her death, Diana spent her evenings at home writing “steady stream of heartfelt ‘thank you’ letters” while listening to classical music.