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Who’s at daggers drawn with whom on Britain’s POSHEST housing estate

With Teutonic efficiency, the invitations went out weeks ago, cocktails chosen and champagne, if not yet on ice, is being readied in the royal wine cellars.

Princess Michael of Kent prides herself on being both a well-organised and generous hostess.

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The annual summer party which she and her husband, the Queen’s cousin Prince Michael, hold in their walled garden is an unchanging ritual right down to the small print reminder on the RSVP cards for guests to wear ‘shoes for lawns’.

The annual summer party which she and her husband, the Queen’s cousin Prince Michael, hold in their walled garden is an unchanging ritual right down to the small print reminder on the RSVP cards for guests to wear ‘shoes for lawns’

An accompanying letter for this year’s shindig advises that chauffeurs are ‘permitted to wait on site but must remain with their vehicle at all times’.

The Princess likes to receive guests just inside the doorway into the garden where an Indian Raj-style tent is the focus — she calls it her open-air drawing room — and waiters circulate with drinks and canapes.

While his wife stands graciously saying ‘hello’ to everyone, Prince Michael mingles.

Princess Michael of Kent (left) prides herself on being both a well-organised and generous hostess. While his wife stands graciously saying ¿hello¿ to everyone, Prince Michael mingles

Princess Michael of Kent (left) prides herself on being both a well-organised and generous hostess. While his wife stands graciously saying ‘hello’ to everyone, Prince Michael mingles

This is the garden that was once Princess Diana’s sanctuary, the only place where she felt entirely secure from Buckingham Palace snoops, and where Prince William took his first public steps.

Since taking it over after Diana’s death, Princess Michael, 73, has transformed the place, and the flowerbeds and roses will be at their best for the party on July 2, two days before her husband’s 76th birthday.

There is an added ingredient to this summer’s bash — the couple are also celebrating their ruby wedding anniversary on June 30. So there will be special interest in who makes the guest list.

Forty years ago, when Prince Michael married divorced Catholic Marie Christine von Reibnitz in a civil ceremony in Vienna’s town hall, the witnesses included the groom’s brother Edward, the Duke of Kent, his sister Princess Alexandra, Princess Anne and royal fixer Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

The Duke, who is also a Kensington Palace neighbour, and Alexandra are always among the first names on the party guest list.

So, too, are their children — George, Earl of St Andrews, Lady Helen Taylor, Lord Nicholas Windsor, and James and Marina Mowatt — who are Prince Michael’s nephews and nieces, but who missed out on invitations to last week’s Windsor Castle wedding.

There might also be a dash of glamour from the younger generation, such as the Duke of Kent’s granddaughter, Lady Amelia Windsor.

There might also be a dash of glamour from the younger generation, such as the Duke of Kent¿s granddaughter, Lady Amelia Windsor

There might also be a dash of glamour from the younger generation, such as the Duke of Kent’s granddaughter, Lady Amelia Windsor

But what about the newlyweds, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, who are starting married life in modest Nottingham Cottage, just across from the Michaels’ apartment? Might they attend?

And WHAT of Princess Eugenie and her wine merchant fiancé Jack Brooksbank, who have quietly moved into nearby Ivy Cottage, five months ahead of their wedding?

What is clear is that the anniversaries, weddings, parties and comings and goings have shone an intriguing spotlight on the palace dubbed the poshest public housing project in Britain, which accommodates an extended family ranging in age from Prince Louis at just 33 days old to the Duke of Kent who is 83 in October.

It is ironic that not long after Princess Michael was receiving the key to Diana’s secret garden, the very future of Kensington Palace was in doubt.

The Princess’s death, and then that of Princess Margaret in 2002, led to courtiers drawing up a plan to convert the palace into a permanent home for the treasures and artworks of the Royal Collection.

The only stumbling block was that it was still a home for those hard-working but minor members of the Royal Family, and where would they go? One possibility was that they could retire to their country homes.

The Queen, however, did not welcome the idea of pensioning off loyal family members who do much of the less glamorous royal work without a murmur of complaint. And, besides, none has a country home to retire to any more.

The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester gave up Barnwell Manor, in Northamptonshire, because the income from its farm was not enough to meet the upkeep and it was leased to an international antiques company. They do, however, have a small weekend cottage in Gloucestershire.

But what about the newlyweds, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, who are starting married life in modest Nottingham Cottage, just across from the Michaels¿ apartment? Might they attend?

But what about the newlyweds, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, who are starting married life in modest Nottingham Cottage, just across from the Michaels’ apartment? Might they attend?

As full-time working royals, the Gloucesters and the Duke and Duchess of Kent, whose home is Wren Cottage, close to Harry and Eugenie’s homes, live rent-free.

As for Prince and Princess Michael, after being obliged to take over the £120,000-a-year rent on their palace apartment from the Queen following a public outcry, they sold Nether Lypiatt, their manor house in Gloucestershire — to Labour peer Lord Drayson for £5.75 million — to pay for it.

Asked if it would have been better to have bought another home, Princess Michael admitted: ‘We did cost it out, but we’d have to rent garages and an office. And the thing is security. Security is very expensive. So we’d have to pay for that as well.’

Friends of the couple say they will never leave Kensington Palace. ‘KP means everything to them,’ says one. ‘Michael is an HRH, the grandson of a king (George V) and the Queen promised when they married that they would always have a home at the palace.’

And WHAT of Princess Eugenie and her wine merchant fiancé Jack Brooksbank, who have quietly moved into nearby Ivy Cottage, five months ahead of their wedding?

And WHAT of Princess Eugenie and her wine merchant fiancé Jack Brooksbank, who have quietly moved into nearby Ivy Cottage, five months ahead of their wedding?

So what is life like in this aristocratic communal settlement, and do they all rub along or are they at daggers drawn? Last month, Aatish Taseer, ex-boyfriend of the couple’s daughter, Lady Gabriella Windsor, penned a lurid article about their relationship in which he called Kensington Palace ‘wildly depressing’.

He added: ‘All the famous inhabitants — Princess Margaret, Princess Diana — were dead, and those who remained, minor royals and palace secretaries, lived in their long, cold shadow. (In perpetual fear, I should add, of being turfed out.)’

But instead of being closed down, the palace has flourished. The arrival of Prince William and Kate, who with their three children, now occupy Apartment 1a, the 22-room former home of Princess Margaret following a £4.5 million refurbishment — including two kitchens — mostly at taxpayers’ expense, changed everything.

As Taseer wrote: ‘Will and Kate arrived to liven up the place.’ Harry followed, with Meghan moving in with him after their engagement.

In royal circles it is widely expected the couple will trade up and move into the Gloucesters¿ 21-room pile Apartment 1, right next door to William and Kate. The two properties have adjoining front doors

In royal circles it is widely expected the couple will trade up and move into the Gloucesters’ 21-room pile Apartment 1, right next door to William and Kate. The two properties have adjoining front doors

How long they will stay in Nottingham Cottage remains to be seen. A modest, two-bedroom dwelling, it was traditionally occupied by royal retainers — home to Princess Margaret’s long-time private secretary Lord Napier, and later Sir Miles Hunt-Davis, Prince Philip’s private secretary.

‘Before Meghan arrived, it was like a student or soldier’s digs’, a friend of Prince Harry who visited him there says, simply furnished but with pictures on the walls from the Royal Collection.

The young Duchess has changed all that with throws, scatter cushions and scented candles.

In royal circles it is widely expected the couple will trade up and move into the Gloucesters’ 21-room pile Apartment 1, right next door to William and Kate. The two properties have adjoining front doors.

The Gloucesters, said to have made the offer themselves, might in exchange receive the home lived in by Lord (Christopher) Geidt, the Queen’s former private secretary. The father of two, who quit last October, was permitted to remain in his apartment until the end of the school year.

If Harry and Meghan move next door to William and Kate, it will certainly be exciting and inevitably bring back memories of the years when they were boys living with their mother in apartments 8 and 9

If Harry and Meghan move next door to William and Kate, it will certainly be exciting and inevitably bring back memories of the years when they were boys living with their mother in apartments 8 and 9

If Harry and Meghan move next door to William and Kate, it will certainly be exciting and inevitably bring back memories of the years when they were boys living with their mother in apartments 8 and 9.

It is also likely to become the focus of a new royal social salon. A glamorous crowd will be making its way to Kensington Palace.

Even so, neither Harry nor William are likely to make it on to Princess Michael’s party guest list.

One friend of the Princess says: ‘I asked her how much she saw of Harry and she said she never saw him. That’s the thing about KP, they are cheek by jowl but their lives are separate.

‘This explains why the children of the Gloucesters, the Kents and the Michaels, were not invited to Harry and Meghan’s wedding. Even though they all grew up together in the same place, they had totally unconnected lives, different schools, different friends.’

There is also the matter of the great stray cats controversy. After two of her treasured pedigree Burmese were injured, Princess Michael called in a pest control firm to trap the strays routinely found in the palace grounds.

In one of the traps Diana placed a battery-operated toy cat which miaowed just like the real thing. William and Harry, meanwhile, were taught to shout ‘cat killers!’ at the pest control workmen.

The cats weren’t killed, but found homes through the RSPCA. But cats had been a point of conflict between the two women for years.

Diana liked to sleep with an open window in summer and Princess Michael’s cats would sometimes climb in and disturb her.

On one occasion when Diana phoned to complain, Princess Michael is said to have told an aide: ‘Tell her my cats were here before she was.’

In public, the two women were superficially friendly but in private Princess Michael would complain about ‘the stupid girl next door’. For her part, in view of her family’s Nazi past, Diana referred to her as the ‘U-boat commander’.

It is also unlikely that Princess Eugenie will be on the party guest list. Princess Michael is no fan of her mother, the Duchess of York.

Eugenie, 28, who is an associate director at art gallery Hauser & Wirth, and her future husband are privately renting three-bedroom Ivy Cottage, next door to the Duke and Duchess of Kent.

A comparable three-bedroom mews house near Hyde Park would cost £3,500 a week. Officials would not say how much the couple have been asked to pay, but it is thought the rent is being met by her father, Prince Andrew.

Eugenie had previously been living in a taxpayer-funded four-bedroom apartment in St James’s Palace with her sister Princess Beatrice, 29.

Brooksbank, 31, and Eugenie will marry at Windsor Castle in October. The couple have been together for eight years after being introduced by friends in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier, where her parents have a £13 million property.

Ivy Cottage was formerly the family home of the deputy director of the palace’s property section. It has been earmarked for Eugenie — though her plans to move in were marred by an alleged row over who should pay the thousands needed to repair a damp problem. It remains unknown whether public money was spent refurbishing the cottage.

A source close to Eugenie says she is thrilled to be living next door to Harry and Meghan. ‘Harry and Eugenie are great mates,’ the insider says. ‘She was one of the first of the royals to meet Meghan.’

For all the HRHs, the palace residents also include courtiers (who have around 16 per cent of their salary deducted for the privilege) domestic staff and senior military figures. Even members of the public pay the market rent for accommodation, including a cosmetics boss and a City high-flyer. In return, they get armed police security, their own telephone switchboard and a team of craftsmen and gardeners.

Among residents are the Queen’s page Barry Mitford, Buckingham Palace foreman and furniture conservator Richard Thompson and senior surveyor Louis Randall. They are all said to get on with their lords and masters.

But when your home depends on job security, it can be unsettling.

For example, when the late Sir John Riddell was removed as Charles’s private secretary he complained not about his sacking but that his wife had just spent a large sum on made-to-measure curtains they could never use.

For the older royals, the new arrivals will mean little change to the rhythms of life at Kensington Palace. But for Princess Michael, it might just be her last summer as the party queen.

 



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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