The United Kingdom has had a rough time of late. The cost-of-living crisis, with food costs soaring, possible runaway inflation, and the skyrocketing energy price cap, means that it may be a very bleak winter for Britain’s old-age pensioners.
Fortunately, at least one elderly lady, used to struggling along on just $18 million a year from the Sovereign Grant, and a mere $31 million or so per year from the Duchy of Lancaster, has mustered that Dunkirk spirit and put several of the dozens of homes she owns on Airbnb.
Fancy staying at HM Queen Elizabeth II’s former head gardener’s cottage at Sandringham, on the Norfolk coast, in February? Who doesn’t? Nothing like an icy wind sweeping down off the North Sea in the middle of winter. The gardener’s cottage can be booked for just about $400 a night, for a minimum of three nights. Oof, a little out of your league during the cost of living crisis? You’re in luck. Lower priced rentals are available at another of Her Majesty’s privately owned estates, Balmoral in Scotland, for just about $120 a night. (If you think Norfolk in February is bracing, try the Scottish Highlands in February!)
So what do you get for your $400 a night when booking in at Sandringham? Beautiful gardens, a lovely dark-brick exterior, and a spectacularly charmless interior. Wait, we must be wrong, as the Airbnb listing says, “Garden House offers charming and relaxed accommodation for eight guests set over two floors. Furnished eclectically from the Royal Collection, all the furniture and pictures were once housed in a royal residence.” So who are we peasants to complain about how remarkably plain it all is?
Fine. Can’t expect the Queen to hang up a Van Dyke in the lounge or anything like that, but would some pictures hurt? Perchance some crummy old photos of Queen Vic and the Prince Consort, anything like that? Would it hurt to update the flooring and cabinets in the kitchen or the utility room, which really should be called a scullery as it’s just as dreary as one. There are four bedrooms and two bathrooms; the bathrooms, like the kitchen, look like they just flew in from 1980 and boy are their arms tired.
Of course, again, the gardens are lovely, dogs are allowed — bring your own corgis! — and there are a number of attractions at Sandringham such as a visitors’ center and a new playground. Near the coast, beach walks are possible as are country walks and exploring the local countryside.
Still, the accommodations seem awfully basic for the price. Yes, the Queen is notoriously thrifty — eating cereal from Tupperware containers and putting on ancient electric heaters for warmth — but most modern travelers probably expect and want something a tad more regal for the price.