Anmer Hall: Inside William and Kate's family home in Norfolk

Jun 2, 2016

Duke of Cambridge reveals he is looking at schools for Prince George

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He may be only two-years-old, but the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are already drawing up a shortlist of potential schools for Prince George, according to the latest reports.

On an official visit to a new breast cancer research centre at the Royal Marsden Hospital, in London, Prince William told a patient he was busy "trying to sort out schools now".

Prince George, who will celebrate his third birthday in July, currently attends a Montessori nursery close to Anmer Hall.

The young royal is not due to start school until September 2017, but it is no surprise that William and Kate will want to make their decision early. The main question that remains to be answered is: will the family remain in Norfolk or return to London?

Prince William's own alma mater – Wetherby School – is only half a mile from Kensington Palace, the family's London residence. As the Daily Telegraph points out, parents of prospective pupils are urged to make their applications "ideally the day he is born" to maximise their chances of a place at the massively over-subscribed school. Even so, administrators might be persuaded to make an exception for the heir to the throne.

However, privacy will surely be a deciding factor and on this Norfolk must come out on top. The Cambridges' secluded country residence has so far proven a welcome change from London, where Prince George has been repeatedly followed by photographers while out with his nanny.

Norfolk boasts a number of highly regarded schools in both the private and state sector, including the Flitcham Primary Academy – an "outstanding" state school situated only two miles from Anmer Hall.

Family home

Anmer Hall, which boasts a swimming pool and private tennis court, was given to the Duke and Duchess by the Queen. It was originally intended as a country property for the couple, but following the birth of Princess Charlotte they took up full-time residence in Norfolk, as William focused on family and his new flying career with East Anglian Air Ambulance.

Most of the Duke's flights are believed to be from Cambridge Airport, but he may sometimes fly from Norwich, the Daily Telegraph says. Both locations are easier to get to from Anmer Hall than they would be from the couple's London residence in Kensington Palace.

According to the paper, a "close friend" said that for the next two years William will devote himself to "family and flying in that order".

Living in Norfolk, William and Kate are near Prince George's godfather William Van Cutsem and his wife Rosie, who live in Hilborough, just 40 minutes from Anmer Hall.

William's cousin Laura Fellowes lives relatively nearby as well in West Norfolk, and his school friend Archie Soames is in West Barsham Hall in Fakenham, according to Hello.

Million-pound refurbishments

The couple have spent several million pounds refurbishing the ten-bedroom Georgian mansion. Documents posted on the King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council website earlier this year, showed that the Prince and his wife had applied for planning permission to demolish their existing tennis court and create a new one with an artificial grass surface a little further from the house.

The plan was part of a "comprehensive overhaul" of the grounds at Anmer Hall, intended to improve privacy for William, Kate, George and Charlotte. They are also said to have a new "glazed garden room" and a new kitchen.

Refurbishment for the vast house, described by the Mail as a "secluded fortress", was largely paid for by the royal family from private funds. The decor has been brought into line with the royal couple's taste, and involved an extensive tree-planting programme to afford the Duke and Duchess greater privacy, according to Hello.

The property was also given a new orange roof, visible in the picture below. The news that the couple were doing so much work on the gardens at Anmer Hall was seen as further evidence that they were making the Norfolk retreat their family home.

The Duke and Duchess have also completed a £4.5m refurbishment of their residence in Kensington Palace, Apartment 1A, which was formerly the home of Princess Margaret.

Royal aides defended the renovation, the Telegraph says, noting that the once "uninhabitable" apartment had been transformed into the couple's "one and only" official residence, which they would occupy "for many, many years to come".

No 'social hotbed'

Anmer Hall itself is a "comfortable, unpretentious Georgian" building, says art historian Sir Roy Strong. With large sash windows, Anmer "has a gentleness to it", but it is well located with ready access to the Duchy, Windsor, London and several racecourses.

"There is very little going on at all at Anmer," one source told the Telegraph. "It is certainly not a social hotbed and there aren't any fabulous shops to visit."

The royal family will be able to go about their business in privacy there, protected by the newly planted trees, with a "battery" of close protection officers on duty round the clock and all visitors "closely monitored," the source said.

Household staff

The Duke and Duchess are keeping their household staff "to a minimum", Hello says, but they hired a full-time maternity nurse through Norland nanny agency to work at Anmer Hall for the three months after Princess Charlotte was born.

In March, the Duke and Duchess placed a discreet advert in The Lady magazine, which gave a "fascinating glimpse" of what life is like is like at Anmer Hall, "a life with children, dogs and jovial family meals at its core", says the Daily Telegraph.

The advert read: "Housekeeper sought for a large family home in Norfolk. We are looking for someone with previous housekeeping experience, ideally within a large private house, and preferably within a family environment with dogs."

The couple were also keen to emphasise that "discretion and loyalty is paramount".

Privacy

Following the birth of Princess Charlotte, police in a Norfolk village near Anmer Hall handed out letters warning the media not to harass the royal couple, saying William and Kate had asked photographers to respect their privacy after being subjected to "a number of intrusions" by paparazzi with long lenses.

The three-paragraph letter said that the couple "have a more than reasonable expectation of privacy" while they are at Anmer Hall and on the Sandringham Estate.

It continued: "There have in the past been a number of intrusions into the privacy of the Royal Family which in the main have been as a result of professional photographers using long-distance lenses, not only to observe the Royal Family, but also to photograph them going about their activities on the estate."

Pictures courtesy of Richard Humphrey/Wikimedia Commons

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