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Inside Clarence House - the hidden history behind the royal residence

See the royals who lived in the property before King Charles and Queen Camilla

Split image of the exterior of Clarence House and the late Queen playing with a young Prince Charles
Homes Editor
Online News Writer & Diversity and Inclusion Lead
Updated: 19 April 2024
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Clarence House is still the base of King Charles and Queen Camilla, with the royal couple living within its walls instead of Buckingham Palace. But they are far from the first royals to have called the Grade I listed building home.

Over the years, Clarence House has hosted many princes and princesses and, for a brief stint, it even served as a headquarters for the British Red Cross during World War II. Each of the property's residents has stamped their own mark on the building and it has undergone extensive renovations since it was first constructed in 1827.

Join HELLO! as we walk through the history of Clarence House from its construction, to its Victorian residents and how it now serves as the home of Charles and Camilla.


A drawing of Clarence House from when it was built© history_docu_photo / Alamy Stock Photo
Clarence House was built between 1825 and 1827

Clarence House was built between 1825 and 1827 by architect John Nash, who designed Marble Arch, Brighton's Royal Pavilion and oversaw extensive renovations at Buckingham Palace. The residence was designed for Prince William Henry, the Duke of Clarence, who would become King William IV, due to his disliking of St James's Palace.

William continued to live at the property even after acceding to the throne, having a tunnel built between Clarence House and St James's Palace's state apartments. After William died in 1837, his sister, Princess Augusta moved in and remained there until her death in 1840.

The Victorian era

Queen Victoria's mother, Princess Victoria, became the property's next royal resident in 1841; like many other residents she passed away while living there. Victoria's son Prince Alfred then called Clarence House home and became the first of many to start renovating the property.

A black-and-white photo of the interior of the Morning Room© The Print Collector / Alamy Stock Photo
The Morning Room seen here in 1894

One of the biggest changes that Alfred, who was the Duke of Edinburgh at the time, was the installation of a Russian Orthodox chapel for his wife Grand Duchess Maria, although this was dismantled following her death in 1920. The final resident of the Victorian era was Victoria's son, Prince Arthur and his wife Princess Louise and they remained there until their respective deaths in 1942 and 1917.

World War II base

Following the death of Arthur, the residence was given to the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance brigade to serve as their base of operations. The building suffered some damage during the Blitz, and after the war it was given back to the royal family.

A black-and-white exterior shot of Clarence House with a car outside
The property was an office for the British Red Cross during WWII

The late Queen and her family

In 1947, the then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip moved into the house, although they only lived their for five years before Elizabeth ascended to the throne and the couple moved into Buckingham Palace. Despite their brief time, the couple still commissioned some renovation works, although this was mainly around modernising heating and water systems.

The Queen and Prince Philip sat in the gardens of Clarence House with a young Prince Charles and Princess Anne© Fox Photos
The late Queen lived in Clarence House before ascending to the throne

The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret subsequently moved into the property, with Margaret moving out in 1960 and the Queen Mother remaining their until her death in 2002. The Queen Mother undertook several renovations of the property, a lot of which still remain to this day, with the property's current inhabitants, Charles and Camilla, keeping many of the rooms the same in tribute to her.

Current residents

Following the death of the Queen Mother, Charles and Camilla moved in and while they didn't touch many of the rooms, some did require renovations and modernisations, with the work taking place before the couple moved in in 2003. Charles and Camilla were joined in their home by Charles' sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, but both royals have long since moved out.

A black-and-white photo of the Queen Mother waving© Evening Standard
The Queen Mother was a long-time resident of Clarence House

Since then, fans have been treated to glimpses inside thanks to the couple partaking in video calls from their London home.

Prince Harry and Prince William inside Clarence House© Anwar Hussein Collection
William and Harry once called Clarence House home

The Morning Room is a frequently used space inside the walls, used to host guests when they come to visit. It's a traditionally decorated room with an ornate fireplace and plenty of antiques and artworks. It is also used as an office space for Camilla during the pandemic as she revealed while on a call.

A corner of Clarence House with a grandfather clock and a portrait of the late Queen Mother© Pool/Tim Graham Picture Library
The Morning Room is the most seen part of the home

The royal sat at an oval-shaped oak desk with a glass top, where she had showcased a framed photo, a vase of pink tulips, a pen pot and a drinks tray. The room has an intricately patterned carpet and the walls are kept white to let the lavish furnishings and ornaments do the talking. Elsewhere in the room, Camilla and Charles have two alcoves at either side of the fireplace, displaying handpainted crockery and other trinkets. There is also plenty of light from various desk lamps.

A staircase with a mirror hanging on the wall© Topical Press Agency
The house has undergone several changes

Despite being in central London, Charles still has an abundant garden at Clarence House where he grows organic fruits and vegetables.

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