Royals on fast track for new homes and titles
The royal chessboard is full of interesting moves these days, from timber to titles. Sort of a mini regal makeover.
We can start where the Queen is currently residing, at Sandringham Estate. She has now made application to renovate Anmer Hall, the 10-bedroom late-Georgian mansion that has been part of the Queen's family holdings sinch 1898.
The local Norfolk council has received an application to make several changes to the property, including re-routing the driveway, a garage extension, converting wood stores into accomodation and building a garden room.
A decision on the plan is expected by March. The home is currently leased to James Everett, who lives and runs his timber business there, until 2017.
All this comes as renovations continue on Apartment 1A at Kensington Palace, which will be Will and Kate's designated London residence. Right now they have a one-bedroom cottage on the Palace grounds, plus their rented farmhouse in Wales, close to the prince's work at RAF Valley.
The village of Anmer has just 63 people, according to the 2001 census, and it appears the prospect of more royal neighbours is welcome. "I can't think that it would be anythng other than good for the village," 82-year-old Neville Warnes told the BBC. "That's an ideal place to live and rear a family.
"It's isolated but surrounding the hall is the park where the child, or the children, will see the cattle, the sheep and get a general feeling of the countryside and rural life."
And speaking of children ....
ROYAL HEIR REFORM HITS A SNAG
At first, it all made so much sense.
Get rid of the old laws of royal succession that shut out girls and forbade any heirs from marrying Roman Catholics. Surely these are simply reflective of ancient times and have no place in today's world.
Even the Queen, upholder of royal traditions, seems to agree it's time to put the old heirarchy aside. To aid the cause, she has officially decreed, as is her right, that all children of Prince William and Kate will have the Royal Highness title of Prince or Princess. Under old rules, the titles were only given automatically to the children of the monarch, the sons' children and to the first-born son of the eldest son of the Prince of the Wales.
The change, announced this week, should make the fast-tracked road for the Succession to the Crown bill even easier, well ahead of Kate's schedule in delivering a new heir early this summer.
But ... not so fast, say Church of England leaders and, more surprisingly, Prince Charles.
Has this really been thought out, they ask. What if the first-born son or daughter marries a Roman Catholic and they raise their children in the Catholic faith? The monarch, by law, is the head of the Church of England and must be Protestant. How does that make sense of he/she is raised a Catholic?
And what about all the other titled families in Britain with their dukedoms? They still adhere to first-male dominance. The females in that situation would surely want equality.
There's a lot of what if's in this equation and they are not unsolvable. But already there is rumblings that the British House of Lords will not back the bill in its current state. Even future Grandpa Prince Charles isn't convinced this bill will ensure harmony among the sexes and the religious sects.
What sounded so right several months ago now has blossomed into layers of constitutional complexity.
And all William and Kate wanted to do was start a family.
ZARA GALLOPS BACK TO HOMESTEAD
Zara Phillips -- who doesn't have the kind of problems her cousin William has since she does not have a royal title -- is going back to mother.
The couple has sold their $1.9-milion Cheltenham house and will be moving 32 kilometres to a place on Princess Anne's Gatcombe Park estate. In addition to the Princess Royal, Zara's brother Peter, his wife Autumn and their two girls also live on the estate.
What makes the move enticing for Zara is that the Olympic silver-medal winning equestrian has her horses stabled at Gatcombe Park.
As for starting her own family, there is no plan to match Will and Kate's output. Kate "can win that one," she said in an interview.
"Before we got married, everyone was like: 'When are you going to get married?' Then as soon as we were, it was: 'When are you having kids?'
"In the future we'll see what happens, but we're not, sort of, putting a date down."