Amid a gruelling week for the Queen Consort as she continues to support her husband King Charles III and mourn the loss of her mother-in-law, the Queen, she returned to her country mansion of Ray Mill House – a place she is known to love and consider her true ‘home.’
Camilla, 75, bought the property in 1996 for £850,000, with the proceeds of her divorce from Andrew Parker Bowles, and it is a welcome respite from Highgrove, which is only a 15-minute drive away.
The Queen Consort travelled to the Grade II listed property in Wiltshire on Wednesday afternoon.
It is thought that Camilla will continue residing at Ray Mill House, which is not an official part of the Royal estate, as she has done for years, following her husband’s ascension to the throne.
The Queen Consort is known to feel most at ‘home’ in the six-bedroom country-pile, with insiders previously saying she can ‘kick off her shoes’, enjoy a G&T and walk around in her dressing gown at the property.
And while others have said she could ‘lol around’ the property and ‘smoke cigarettes’, she has also treated it as an informal gathering point where she can invite friends and family, especially her grandchildren, far away from the royal circus.
The Queen Consort sought refuge at Ray Mill House, in Wiltshire, during a break from official duties yesterday. Pictured, Camilla standing in the impressive front doors to the property, in a photo taken to mark her 75th birthday
Camilla bought the property in 1996 for £850,000, with the proceeds of her divorce from Andrew Parker Bowles, and it is a welcome respite from Highgrove, which is only a 15-minute drive away
Photos taken before Camilla moved in reveal how the country home is filled with plenty of light and has reception rooms with beautiful views of the gardens
The property boasts ample living and entertaining space, including this snug, as photographed before the Duchess of Cornwall moved in
The property boasted this swimming pool before Camilla moved in, although, as a keen gardener, it is likely she has added her own personal touches
With six bedrooms, a swimming pool and a roof terrace, the home has proved a perfect place for Camilla to enjoy spending time with her growing family, away from the public’s eyes.
And the property’s grounds are equally expansive. Ray Mill has huge lawns, a large duck pond, as well as flourishing kitchen garden.
Meanwhile, peacocks wander around and the royal has seven beehives, from which the honey is extracted and sold by Fornum and Mason for charity.
Camilla also has a number of her late brother Mark Shand’s lifelike elephant statues dotted around the grounds, which are resident in the garden due to his conservation charity Elephant Family.
She lived there between 1996 and 2003, and has kept it as a country base when required.
Insiders have previously revealed how Camilla feels she can treat the property as her ‘home’ and she is likely to continue to spend time there as Queen Consort (pictured in the gardens earlier this year)
Camilla is understood to have loved the freedom the property allows her, and the opportunity it gives her to spend time with her children and grandchildren (pictured left and right, in the gardens of Ray Mill)
The property boasts six bedrooms, meaning the Queen Consort has plenty of space to host her friends and family. Pictured, one of the spacious bedrooms as it was before Camilla bought the property
Since her 2005 marriage, Camilla has sensibly insisted on maintaining a separate home, stripped of royal servants and the inevitable palaver her husband attracts wherever he goes.
Camilla’s country escape is just a stones throw from Charles
Just as the late Queen loved her private residence of Balmoral in the wilds of the Scottish Cairngorms, so the new King has found solace in his gentle 18th century Cotswolds estate of Highgrove, which is something of a sanctuary for the new monarch.
Indeed, it was the first marital home of Charles and Diana, and where the couple spent most weekends with the young Prince William and Harry.
But of course, the estate was always close to Camilla’s personal home Ray Mill House in Reybridge near Lacock, Wiltshire – and is now a place the King and his Queen Consort deeply cherish.
The Grade II listed country pile which Camilla so loves is just a stones throw from her husband’s favourite retreat.
Raymill is said to offer a welcome respite from Highgrove, which is only a 15-minute drive away.
Owning it has unquestionably contributed to her ease of mind, and to the success of her marriage.
The Queen Consort uses her historic property to get away from husband Prince Charles’s Highgrove House estate, which is open to the public in the summer months and receives more than 30,000 visitors a year.
Friends previously told how it allowed her to retain a portion’ of her life for herself, away from the royal fanfare.
One source previously told Express columnist Adam Helliker: ‘At Ray Mill she can sit down with a big G&T, kick of her shoes and watch Coronation Street, which Charles loathes.
‘She also doesn’t have to bother about how the place looks – Charles is so fussy about tidiness, while she leaves her stuff all over the place. She doesn’t need her cushions plumped all the time.’
And another told Sebastien Shakespeare: ‘That house is where she can cook scrambled eggs in her dressing gown and be among those she loves with not a jot of ceremony or anyone looking at her. It is home.’
Meanwhile author Tina Brown has claimed Camilla made ‘festive escapes from ‘royal dullness’ to the Wiltshire property in the early 2000s.
In her book, The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor–the Truth and the Turmoil, Tina detailed how the Queen could ‘loll around’ at the property.
Meanwhile she also noted that Camilla could enjoy cigarette without ‘furtively smoking up the chimney’, which it is claimed she did when Charles was at home.
Friends have also detailed how Camilla’s attitude about the property is significantly more down-to-earth than one might expect.
Jessica Jayne, author of The Duchess Of Cornwall: Camilla’s Story And Secrets and her former flatmate, wrote: ‘Upon coming home, she would just drop her clothes on the floor on her way to her bedroom.’
Another friend said: ‘Camilla’s bedroom always looked like a bomb had hit it and you should have seen the state of the bathroom after she’d been in it.’
And Ms Brown also claimed Camilla would enjoy ‘raucous dinners’ in the house with her now-adult children, food critic Tom Parker Bowles and curator Laura Lopes.
Photographs of the elegant property taken when Camilla bought the house in 1998 after her divorce from Andrew Parker Bowles – revealing the chic and classic decor
One of the dining rooms in the property has been elegantly decorated with cream carpets and pine furniture, including a stunning display cabinet
Meanwhile one of the six-bedrooms in the property was decorated with blue floral wallpaper and white panelling before Camilla moved in
The splendid hallway and magnificent staircase has a stunning view out onto the gardens and grounds which Camilla is known to love
Elsewhere, Camilla has even hosted momentous family occasions at the property, including her daughter Laura’s wedding reception to Harry Lopes in 2006.
The 380-long guest list for the event included Charles, and his two sons Prince William and Harry, while 2,000 wellwishers lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the family.
Camilla is known to love being a grandmother and spending time away from the royal spotlight with her grandchildren at the property.
Camilla is a grandmother of five, including Eliza, 12. and Gus and Louis, 10, who are the children of Camilla’s daughter Laura and her husband Harry.
Meanwhile she is also grandmother to Tom’s children Lola, 12, and Freddy, 10.
She also has five step-grandchildren – Prince William’s sons George, 5, and Louis, 7 months, and daughter Charlotte, 3, as well as Harry’s children, Archie and Lilibet.
Camilla, who is also mother to Tom Parker Bowles, is known to love being a grandmother and spending time away from the royal spotlight with her grandchildren at the property
The Duchess of Cornwall appears to have added personal quirky touches to the property, including this vintage caravan in the garden. She was photographed at Ray Mill House in official birthday portraits
Her grandchildren are kept largely out of the public spotlight and it appears likely she will be keen to continue spending time with them at her Ray Mill House home as she takes on the role of Queen Consort.
Speaking to Vogue earlier this year, she revealed how she looks after the grandchildren at the property to help out her children, saying: ‘One’s at a school very near my house, so when I am in Wiltshire and her parents are away, I can nip over and pick her up and take her home.’
Earlier this year, in a moment which indicated her deep affection for the property, the then Duchess of Cambridge photographed Camilla at the home for a special edition of Country Life celebrating her 75th birthday.
The cover image shows a relaxed and smiling Queen Consort, wearing a blue and white floral dress and cardigan with minimal jewellery (as well as her trusted Fitbit fitness tracker). A keen gardener, she is sitting, smiling and relaxed, holding a trug filled with pelargoniums.
A second portrait, also taken by Kate, is an informal shot of Camilla walking through forget-me-nots in the gardens.
Meanwhile a behind-the-scenes shot of the photoshoot revealed the then Duchess of Cambridge taking the image on the lawn of Camilla’s home, while the country pile could be seen in the background.
Camilla shares a love of gardening with her husband. She recently told Homes and Gardens magazine how much she enjoyed planting, weeding and just being creative.
She said, ‘It’s just one of the most relaxing things anyone can do. Go into the garden, get on with it.’
The Queen Consort is known to feel most at ‘home’ in the six-bedroom country-pile, with insiders previously saying she can ‘kick off her shoes’, enjoy a G&T and walk around in her dressing gown at the property
The day she spent in the Wiltshire property this week will have been a welcome reprieve to the Queen, as she prepares for a busy weekend of engagements ahead of the Queen’s state funeral on Monday.
The Queen Consort has reportedly been nursing a broken toe throughout her execution of duties at the King’s side.
Camilla suffered the injury prior to the Queen’s death and has been in ‘quite a lot of pain’, according to The Daily Telegraph.
A source told the newspaper she has just been ‘getting on’ with the job of supporting the King during an emotionally and physically gruelling week.
‘It is unfortunate timing to say the least but she’s been an absolute trouper,’ the source reportedly told the paper.
The PA news agency approached the King’s spokesman for comment on his wife’s condition and was told: ‘We won’t comment on medical conditions.’
Later today, the royal couple are due to visit Wales – the King’s first visit since he ascended to the throne.
The King and Camilla will attend a service of prayer and reflection at Llandaff Cathedral before receiving condolences at the Welsh parliament, the Senedd.
He will later hold a private audience with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and the presiding officer at Cardiff Castle, although a protest against the monarchy is expected outside.
Charles will then attend a reception hosted by the Welsh Government, before returning to Buckingham Palace in the evening to host faith leaders in the Bow Room.