The Queen's former chef Darren McGrady has revealed that Frogmore Cottage – Prince Harry and Meghan's new country home – used to serve as accommodation for junior chefs. Staff quarters were basic and "a little bit run-down," he tells HELLO! exclusively. But once renovation work is complete, the royal cottage could be big enough to house 12 bedrooms.
Darren, who lived next door to the Cottage at Frogmore Stables from 1985 to 1993, revealed: "When I was there, Frogmore Cottage was split into five different homes. Staff accommodation was run by the Crown properties so it was paid for by the government and they never really overspend. It was a fantastic location – you're in the Queen's back garden – but a little bit run-down. If something wanted repairing it would just be repaired, it would never be replaced. The staff quarters were never the most luxurious so I can imagine there's a lot of work to be done to turn them into royal accommodation."
A view of Frogmore House; Harry and Meghan will live nearby at Frogmore Cottage
Harry and Meghan's new home may be called a cottage, but it's a cottage by royal standards. Frogmore Cottage used to house several junior chefs alongside their wives and children. "There was an upstairs and a downstairs and it was equally divided between the chefs. It's a two-storey, stucco faced building. I'm sure it'll be put back together and brought back to its glory for Harry and Meghan. They would need to make a lot of changes though, absolutely! They could easily do 10, 12 bedrooms there and then add in all the extras – the drawing rooms, the sitting rooms, the gym."
The royal family pictured in 1965 in the grounds of Frogmore House
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Darren, author of Eating Royally cookbook, worked for the Queen for 11 years before spending the next four with Princess Diana at Kensington Palace. The London residence may have had nicer accommodation (Darren's room was next to William and Harry's nursery), but living in the city really was like being in a goldfish bowl.
A Google Earth view of Frogmore Cottage (circled), which looks across to Frogmore House
"At Kensington Palace, you have a tiny, tiny garden but after that you're in the goldfish bowl," said Darren. "You're on the high street, it's not a great place for bringing up children. I honestly think that's why William and Kate decided they'd have a base in Norfolk where they can bring the children up before they went to school in London."
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Frogmore Cottage, in comparison, is located in the private Home Park. While Windsor Great Park is open to members of the public, Home Park is the Queen's private grounds. "The Home Park is sort of the back entrance into Windsor Castle and that's where you have Frogmore Cottage, Frogmore House and Frogmore Stables," Darren explained. "It's much more private than Kensington Palace. The Queen would put on her wellies and walk her dogs there. Harry and Meghan can walk their dogs, go anywhere in the park freely."
Darren worked for Princess Diana for four years until her death in 1997
While William and Harry used to shoot rabbits in the park to feed the Queen's corgis, it's unlikely the father-to-be will continue with this particular outdoor pursuit. But there's plenty on offer for Harry and Meghan, who are big fans of the outdoors. "There's a nine-hole golf course in the grounds of the Home Park, ten minutes away from Frogmore Cottage," said Darren.
"There's the Mulberry Walk with the mulberry trees, the chefs used to go and pick mulberries to make mulberry gin for Prince Philip. There's also a small farm there, the Prince Consort Farm, where I think they still keep a herd of Jersey cows, which were a gift to the Queen. There's the Old Windsor Dairy which used to provide all the milk. We used to get fresh milk from the farm delivered to us every morning at 9 o'clock."
Relive Harry and Meghan's wedding day as the couple depart for Frogmore House:
Darren added: "From the front lawn of Frogmore Cottage, you can sit and look across at the Royal Household Cricket Club and listen to the wood on willow on a Sunday. Then you can sit in the back garden and look out onto Frogmore Gardens which is where Harry and Meghan had their evening wedding reception. And then Sunday afternoon is perfect. You just walk five minutes up the hill for afternoon tea with Granny, with the Queen, at Windsor Castle."
Visit eatingroyally.com to learn more about Darren McGrady.
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