It could all have been so different. Well, maybe!
Just a few months into her marriage to Charles, Princess Diana put her foot down. She was NOT going to continue living at Highgrove House – she wanted their family home to be a place the couple had chosen together.
And definitely NOT in Royal Gloucestershire. The further away the better, in fact.
Sheep grazing at Highgrove House, The Country Home Of Prince Charles in Gloucestershire. Despite its beauty, Diana wanted the family to move elsewhere
Princess of Wales leans against the Sundial at Highgrove House. Camilla had taken a hand not only in choosing the house but decorating it
Diana is pictured at Highgrove with her lady-in-waiting, Anne Beckwith-Smith
Princess Diana’s old family home, the magnificent Althorp House in Northamptonshire. This had been considerably more spacious than Highgrove
Bolehyde Manor in Allington, Wiltshire, where Camilla and Andrew Parker Bowles lived when they were married. It is not far from Highgrove
Why? Her reasons were almost too many to count – Highgrove, the home of former cabinet minister Maurice Macmillan, had been suggested to Charles by Camilla as the perfect get-away-from-it-all country home.
Camilla had helped him, as he romanced Diana, to decorate the place.
And conveniently, it was a discreet 30-minute drive away from her Wiltshire home Bolehyde Manor. It was her place, not Diana’s.
The princess, according to her family, wanted to get Charles away from his one true love – and she set about distancing him from temptation.
Through her sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale who lived close by, she heard that Belton House in Lincolnshire – the palatial former home of the 6th Lord Brownlow – was vacant and would be put up for sale.
Brownlow had close royal connections – he had been a Lord-in-Waiting to King Edward VIII and was the man who ushered the Duchess of Windsor out of Britain when Edward abdicated.
His home, Belton, had been in the family since the 17th century. King William III had slept there.
Just the right sort of place for Diana to bring up her children – for she’d been used to the 15,000 acres which surrounded her family home Althorp, rather than the meagre 348 Charles acres had around Highgrove.
Belton boasted nearly 5,000 acres and the house was stuffed with Old Masters, exquisite silverware, fine antique furniture and innumerable rooms.
The library, containing 6,000 volumes, looked out over vast formal gardens. Ideal!
Highgrove wasn’t a patch on it – and anyway Diana wanted to get away.
She urged Charles to look the place over, and in early 1982 the couple drove over to view the mansion.
On the way she argued that Belton was a comfortable drive from the royal estate at Sandringham, was very near her sister Sarah, and more imposing by far than potty little Highgrove with its mere nine bedrooms.
So determined was she that her children should grow up at Belton that, according to Lord Brownlow’s nephew Peter Hoos, the couple visited the house on three occasions.
Diana’s preferred location – Belton House, a Grade I listed mansion near Grantham, Lincolnshire
Described as a gem of Carolean architecture, Belton boasted nearly 5,000 acres. It’s innumerable rooms were stuffed with Old Masters, exquisite silverware and antique furniture
The Prince And Princess of Wales with Prince Harry outside Highgrove
Diana wanted to move away but Charles could not be swayed – and eventually put his foot down to stay at Highgrove
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales with their sons William and Harry
Princess Diana leaving Highgrove with William and Harry in the back in 1992
But Charles could not be swayed, and eventually put his foot down to stay at Highgrove.
There, the shadow of Camilla hung over the house – so far as Diana was concerned – and indeed Highgrove proved to be an unhappy home for the royal couple.
Who knows, if Diana could just have put a couple of hundred miles between her husband and his mistress, maybe (but only maybe) she might have been able to hang on to him.