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Highgrove House: A Royal Residence Steeped in History and Horticultural Wonder

Highgrove House, a magnificent Georgian neo-classical estate nestled in the picturesque Cotswolds of Gloucestershire, England, has been the beloved family home of King Charles III since 1980. Built between 1796-1798, this historic property has witnessed the growth of the royal family and the remarkable transformation of its gardens under the King‘s visionary guidance and unwavering commitment to environmental stewardship.

Architectural Heritage and Early History

The story of Highgrove House begins with its construction in the late 18th century, a time when the Georgian architectural style was at its peak. The estate is believed to have been built by local mason and architect Anthony Keck, who was renowned for his work on several notable properties in the region, including the nearby Tetbury Market House (Verey, 1992).

Keck‘s influence is evident in the elegant proportions and symmetry of Highgrove House, which exemplifies the neo-classical style popular during the Georgian era. The house features a central block with a pediment and two flanking wings, creating a harmonious and balanced façade (Jenkins, 2003).

Over the years, Highgrove House passed through the hands of several prominent families. One of the most notable early owners was the Reverend John Keble, a theologian and a key figure in the Oxford Movement of the Church of England. Keble‘s association with Highgrove House adds a layer of religious and intellectual history to the property‘s rich past (Alton, 2015).

The Duchy of Cornwall and King Charles III

In 1980, the Duchy of Cornwall acquired Highgrove House from Maurice Macmillan, son of former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. The Duchy, established in the 14th century, is a private estate that provides income and land for the heir apparent to the British throne (Duchy of Cornwall, 2021).

Upon the purchase of Highgrove, King Charles III, then the Prince of Wales, was appointed as a tenant for life by the Duchy. The King and his then-wife, Princess Diana, undertook essential repairs and redecorations to make the house a comfortable family home. In a touching gesture, the British Army gifted the couple a swimming pool as a wedding present in 1981 (Clover, 1993).

Highgrove House quickly became a cherished retreat for the royal family, with Prince William and Prince Harry spending much of their childhood exploring the estate‘s grounds. In 1987, King Charles put his personal touch on the property by remodelling the Georgian house with neo-classical additions, further enhancing its architectural heritage (Jobson, 2018).

The Transformation of Highgrove Gardens

While the house itself holds a special place in the King‘s heart, it is the gardens that truly showcase his passion and dedication. When Charles first moved into Highgrove, the gardens were overgrown and neglected. Undeterred, he set out to transform the grounds into a horticultural paradise, working closely with renowned gardeners such as Rosemary Verey and Miriam Rothschild (Gamble, 2019).

Under the King‘s stewardship, the gardens at Highgrove have evolved into a series of interconnected spaces, each with its own distinctive character and purpose. The transformation began in earnest in the late 1980s when Charles commissioned Verey to design the Sundial Garden, a formal area featuring intricate topiary and a central sundial (Verey, 1992).

Over the years, the King has continued to expand and refine the gardens, drawing inspiration from his travels and his deep appreciation for the natural world. The Stumpery, a whimsical area showcasing the beauty of dead tree stumps and logs, was inspired by a visit to the renowned Stumpery at Chatsworth House (Gamble, 2019).

Other notable features of the Highgrove Gardens include:

  • The Wildflower Meadow: A vibrant four-acre expanse showcasing the beauty and ecological importance of native wildflowers (Highgrove Gardens, 2021).
  • The Arboretum: A collection of rare and unusual trees, including a 200-year-old cedar of Lebanon (Jobson, 2018).
  • The Cottage Garden: A charming, informal space brimming with colorful annuals and perennials (Highgrove Gardens, 2021).
  • The Thyme Walk: A fragrant pathway lined with various species of thyme, a favorite herb of the King (Gamble, 2019).
Garden Area Key Features Notable Plants
Sundial Garden Formal topiary, central sundial Yew, box, santolina
Wildflower Meadow Native wildflowers, wildlife habitat Oxeye daisy, yellow rattle, common knapweed
Arboretum Rare and unusual trees Cedar of Lebanon, monkey puzzle, gingko
Cottage Garden Informal planting, colorful annuals and perennials Delphiniums, lupins, poppies
Thyme Walk Fragrant pathway Common thyme, lemon thyme, woolly thyme

Table 1: Overview of the key themed areas in Highgrove Gardens (Highgrove Gardens, 2021).

The gardens at Highgrove are not only a source of personal joy for the King but also a testament to his commitment to environmental stewardship. In 1994, the estate gained full organic status, reflecting Charles‘s dedication to sustainable land management and his belief in the importance of working in harmony with nature (Jobson, 2018).

A Legacy of Sustainability and Community Engagement

Highgrove House and its gardens have become a symbol of the King‘s passion for sustainability and his efforts to promote environmentally friendly practices. The estate is home to a thriving organic farm, which supplies produce to the Orchard Tea Room and the Estate Shop (Highgrove Gardens, 2021).

The King‘s commitment to sustainability extends beyond the boundaries of Highgrove. In 1990, he established the Prince of Wales‘s Charitable Foundation, which supports a wide range of initiatives related to sustainable agriculture, environmental conservation, and community development (Prince of Wales‘s Charitable Fund, 2021).

Highgrove Gardens also play a vital role in engaging with the local community and supporting charitable causes. Each year, the gardens welcome up to 40,000 visitors, offering a unique opportunity to experience the beauty and tranquility of this historic estate (Highgrove Gardens, 2021).

The Orchard Tea Room and Estate Shop, both located on the grounds of Highgrove, contribute to the King‘s charitable efforts. All profits from these enterprises are donated to the Prince of Wales‘s Charitable Fund, supporting a wide range of philanthropic endeavors (Jobson, 2018).

In January 2023, the Orchard Tea Room participated in the Prince‘s Foundation Gloucestershire Winter Warmers program, opening its doors to the public every Tuesday to provide a warm and welcoming space for those experiencing loneliness and isolation during the colder months (Prince‘s Foundation, 2023).

Visiting Highgrove Gardens

For those eager to experience the beauty and serenity of Highgrove Gardens firsthand, the estate offers a range of tour options, including guided walks, champagne tea tours, and special events throughout the year (Highgrove Gardens, 2021).

Visitors can explore the various themed areas of the gardens, learn about the King‘s environmental principles, and gain inspiration for their own horticultural endeavors. The best times to visit depend on personal preferences and the seasonal highlights of the gardens:

  • Spring: The Wildflower Meadow comes to life with a vibrant display of native blooms, while the Cottage Garden bursts with colorful tulips and daffodils (Highgrove Gardens, 2021).
  • Summer: The Sundial Garden and Thyme Walk are at their peak, offering a fragrant and visually stunning experience (Jobson, 2018).
  • Autumn: The Arboretum showcases a breathtaking array of autumn colors, with the Japanese maples and liquidambar trees providing a spectacular display (Highgrove Gardens, 2021).

Visitors can also enjoy a delightful cream tea in the Orchard Tea Room, which serves a selection of organic pastries, sandwiches, and cakes. The Estate Shop offers a range of artisanal goods, including books, gardening tools, and locally sourced food items (Highgrove Gardens, 2021).

A Living Legacy

As Highgrove House and its gardens continue to evolve under the stewardship of King Charles III, they serve as a living testament to his unwavering commitment to sustainability, environmental conservation, and community engagement.

The King‘s vision for Highgrove has not only created a horticultural masterpiece but also a model for sustainable land management and a source of inspiration for gardeners and nature enthusiasts around the world.

Through his tireless efforts and innovative approach, King Charles III has transformed Highgrove House into a symbol of his reign, showcasing the power of individual action and the importance of nurturing our connection with the natural world.

As visitors step into the enchanting world of Highgrove Gardens, they are not only immersed in a landscape of breathtaking beauty but also in the legacy of a monarch who has dedicated his life to creating a more sustainable and harmonious future for all.


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Clover, C. (1993). Highgrove: Portrait of an Estate. Chapmans Publishers.

Duchy of Cornwall. (2021). About the Duchy of Cornwall. Retrieved from

Gamble, M. (2019). The Gardens at Highgrove. Rizzoli.

Highgrove Gardens. (2021). About Highgrove Gardens. Retrieved from

Jenkins, S. (2003). England‘s Thousand Best Houses. Penguin Books.

Jobson, R. (2018). Charles at Seventy: Thoughts, Hopes & Dreams. John Blake Publishing.

Prince of Wales‘s Charitable Fund. (2021). About Us. Retrieved from

Prince‘s Foundation. (2023). Gloucestershire Winter Warmers. Retrieved from

Verey, R. (1992). The Gardens at Highgrove. Frances Lincoln Publishers.