The Queen opens the doors at Sandringham to BBC’s Countryfile
- Credit: Ian Burt
The Queen has opened three of her favourite royal residences to camera crews to mark the 30th anniversary of Countryfile - includng Sandringham in Norfolk. What can we expect to see when the team descend on one of the Royal Family's most treasured estates?
Countryfile is heading to Norfolk for the final episode of its Queen and Country series, which celebrates both 30 years of Countryfile and the 65th anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen's coronation and sees the team visit one of the Royal Family's most treasured estates - Sandringham.
Viewers will discover some of the Queen's greatest passions, including her joy of the great outdoors, at the most private of her rural hideaways.
The first televised Christmas Broadcast came from Sandringham, where The Royal Family gathers every Christmas - the landscape and trees are designed to be particularly resplendent in winter time, to honour The Queen's father King George VI and Matt Baker meets the Queen's Head Gardener at Sandringham, who describes how this is achieved.
Matt also meets the Queen's Pigeon Loft Manager, who is responsible for the care and training of her racing pigeons and who describes what an honour it is to be responsible for one of the Queen's lesser-known pastimes.
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Adam Henson visits Sandringham's mixed farm, which stepped up production significantly during WWII when farms were encouraged to increase production to ensure the country had enough food. He finds out the history of blackcurrant harvesting at Sandringham and also about Red Poll cattle.
Ellie Harrison explores the Queen's love of horses, which she loved to ride with her father and grandfather, meeting the Stud Manager and a retired Stud Groom who worked with the Queen for more than 30 years.
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The Queen also devised her own solution on what do with thoroughbreds after their racing lives are over: retraining them in dressage. Ellie also meets The Queen's former head gamekeeper, who looks at habitats created at Sandringham to support the Estate's diverse wildlife - including several species of deer, hare and game.
John Craven visits Hunstanton, just along the Norfolk coast from Sandringham, which in 1953 was devastated by a severe storm which also saw the Sandringham Estate flooded. He meets local residents who witnessed the devastation and learns how the Queen visited a number of local residents affected by the floods, and how the disaster is said to have left a lasting impact on her.
Meanwhile, Anita Rani meets the Queen's former dog trainer, who was responsible for training the most successful of all the Queen's dogs who also instructed Her Majesty in the craft of dog handling.
Ahead of the Countryfile Royal Special – Sandringham, BBC1, Sunday June 10 at 6.30pm, here are some facts about the right Royal residence on our doorstep.
• The Sandringham Estate was bought by Queen Victoria for £22,000 in 1863 and was intended as the home of her eldest son and heir, Albert Edward, the future King Edward VII.
• Old Sandringham Hall was a plain white building built in 1771 by Cornish Henley, whose wife's family, the Hostes, had owned the property since 1686. A Victorian front porch and carr-stone conservatory had been added by architect S. S. Teulon and it was these addition which led the style of the completely new house built in 1870, to accommodate a growing family after the Prince of Wales's marriage to Princess Alexandra of Denmark.
• The new house was designed by A. J. Humbert, who came up with an 'Old English' or Jacobean design influenced by houses such as Blickling. It was executed on the old site in red brick with stone dressings, the shell being built by Goggs Brothers of Swaffham.
• When the house was badly damaged by a fire in 1892, destroying 13 bedrooms, it was subsequently rebuilt and enlarged.
• Infamous parties were held at Sandringham: Bertie and Alexandra loved company and entertaining. Queen Victoria herself visited the house in 1871, when Bertie was dangerously ill with typhoid, the disease that killed his father, he later made a full recovery.
• Sandringham was where Bertie's eldest son and heir, Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Eddy, as he was known to the family, contracted flu at Christmas 1891, which turned to pneumonia and he died there on 14th January, 1892. His younger brother, Prince George, (later George V) replaced him as heir to the throne and married Eddy's fiance, Princess Mary of Teck.
• George V and Queen Mary, as the couple became, moved into Sandringham House until after the death of Queen Alexandra in 1925. They and their family stayed at the cramped York Cottage, a house in the grounds of the estate, where their children where brought up and which was recently gifted to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for their wedding.
• The King adored the estate, referring to it as 'Dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere else in the world.'
• John Charles Francis of Wales was born in 1905 at York Cottage, the youngest child of George (the future George V) and his wife Mary. He was sixth-in-line to the throne upon birth. At around four years old, he began to develop signs of epilepsy and it is believed that he was also autistic – he lived in Wood Farm a small cottage at Sandringham, with his nanny Charlotte or 'Lala' and his mother sent for local children to come and play with him so he didn't become lonely. Aged 13, he suffered a severe seizure and died in his sleep at Wood Farm.
• The house has been the last resting place of two British monarchs, George V, who died at Sandringham on 20 January, 1936, helped on his way by the royal physician, Lord Dawson of Penn, who administered a lethal dose of morphia to the dying King and that of George VI, the father of the present Queen, unaware that he was suffering from lung cancer, he died peacefully in his sleep at Sandringham on 6th February, 1952.
• Sandringham House is entered through the large entrance hall, known as the Saloon which is two-storey and has a minstrels' gallery which was built to house a band when the room was used as a ballroom. The royal family like to spend their evenings here.
• The Small Drawing Room is used by the Queen's Lady-in-Waiting and is dominated by a portrait of Queen Louise of Denmark, the mother of the Queen's great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra. The embroidery on the small wooden armchairs is the work of the Queen's grandmother, Queen Mary.
• Queen Victoria's favourite room at Sandringham was the Main Drawing Room.
• The gardens of Sandringham House are entered through beautiful wrought iron gates known as the Norwich gates which were given as a wedding present to the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1863 by the County of Norfolk and the City of Norwich and are the work of Thomas Jekyll.
• The Queen and the Royal Family traditionally spend Christmas at Sandringham and stay there until the following February, her annual Christmas broadcasts, a tradition established by her grandfather, George V, are generally made from Sandringham.
• When Prince William and Kate Middleton married, the Queen gifted them Anmer Hall on the Sandringham Estate. Wills and Kate chose to bring Prince George to nursery in Norfolk, later moving back to Kensington palace where Charlotte now goes to nursery and George goes to school.
• The Queen recently splashed out on a luxury new home for the royal pigeons which cost £40,000. The 200 pedigree birds moved in 2015 into their home full of top-of-the-range nesting boxes with ladder-shaped perches to help keep them active. The sport has been a Royal hobby since 1886, when King Leopold II of Belgium gave some racing pigeons to the Royal Family.
• Prince Philip is said to keep a collection of press cartoons about himself on the walls of his lavatory in Sandringham.