Nottingham Cottage, in the grounds of Kensington Palace, became the now Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s first shared home in 2017, and it features heavily in the couple’s explosive new Netflix docuseries, Harry & Meghan. Here, Vogue explores the history of the royal residence. 

It dates back to the 17th century

Although the two-bedroom cottage, at 1,324 square feet, is undeniably smaller than many other royal residences, it does have a rich history. It was designed by none other than Christopher Wren as part of the prolific architect’s redevelopment of the site when it was purchased by William III and Mary II in 1689 from the second Earl of Nottingham. Its name derives from Nottingham House, the original name of the main property, before it became Kensington Palace.   

Its previous residents include princes, private secretaries, and one renegade nanny

Prince Harry certainly wasn’t the first senior royal to occupy the cottage—it was once home to Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester—but from the mid-1950s, it became the home of several senior members of staff to the royal family. Among them was Marion Crawford, the former governess to the then-Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. Upon her retirement, the property was given to her for life, and she cherished it, describing it as “a dream come true… built of lovely seasoned red brick, with a tiled roof and roses round the door.” Her happiness was short-lived, however, because—in a Netflix-worthy twist—she was forced to depart just two years later, as a result of her publication of the tell-all memoir The Little Princesses: The Extraordinary Story of the Queen’s Childhood by her Nanny. It ended her relationship with the family and ensured she was cast out of royal circles. 

The following years were less eventful for the cottage: it was home to Miles Hunt-Davis, the Duke of Edinburgh’s private secretary; and then Robert Fellowes, Queen Elizabeth II’s private secretary, and his wife, Lady Jane Fellowes, the older sister of Princess Diana. After that, it passed into the hands of the then-Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who lived there after their marriage in 2011. A few months after the birth of Prince George in 2013, they moved into the main palace.

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That autumn, the cottage’s walled garden provided the setting for Harry’s low-key proposal: he set up a blanket, flowers, and electric candles and got down on one knee to surprise his girlfriend. The docuseries also includes footage of Meghan—who caught on to what was happening when Harry popped a bottle of champagne as she was making them a roast—FaceTiming a friend to say: “Oh my god, Jess. It’s happening!”

It’s now home to another young royal family

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex moved out of Nottingham Cottage in 2019, setting up their home in Frogmore Cottage, Windsor, following their wedding and ahead of the birth of their first child, Archie, who arrived in May that year. Now the two-bedroom home on the grounds of Kensington Palace is reported to be home to another young family: Harry’s much-loved cousin Princess Eugenie, her husband Jack Brooksbank, and their son August, who will shortly turn three. Despite the Sussexes’ bitter rift with the royal family, this is one bond that clearly remains intact. Eugenie pops up repeatedly in Harry & Meghan, in photographs with the couple at a Halloween party before news of their relationship hit the press, and again in the final episode, when she is seen visiting the family at their new home in California. 

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