The Queen Mother's 'secret' apartment holds 'surprising' truths about how the royal lived on the coast

One of the lesser-known royal residences has opened its doors for the first time in history – and the space may 'surprise' us

The Queen Mother's 'secret' apartment
(Image credit: Nikreates / Alamy Stock Photo / Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

The Queen Mother's private apartment, located in Walmer Castle, has opened its doors to the public for the first time in history, and with it comes a look at her surprisingly understated design choices. 

The Queen Mother, consequently King Charles' grandmother (who was the only woman to hold the title of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports), enjoyed a private apartment in the royal residence, cared for by English Heritage. The late royal often traveled to Kent with her corgis – where she enjoyed her apartment and the Renaissance castle gardens overlooking the English Channel. 

As of March 23rd, royal enthusiasts have been able to enjoy a 'rare glimpse' of what life was like for the Queen Mother during her stay on the coast – some of which might not be what we expect, according to the castle’s curator, Kathryn Bedford.

‘I think visitors might be surprised by the simplicity of how modern Lord Wardens, including the Queen Mother, have lived in the castle with their families and staff,' Bedford shared with The Telegraph

Walmer Castle

The Lantern Room and Corridor in Walmer Castle

(Image credit: mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)

In opening the apartment, which was previously hidden behind a 'secret door,' Bedford hopes that people will grow to appreciate the beauty and peace surrounding this lesser-known residence. She also expects visitors will understand why the castle as a whole has attracted politicians, aristocrats, and royalty since its roots in the 1500s.

Walmer Castle

The Saloon with furnishings from around the 1920s

(Image credit: GmbH & Co. KG / Alamy Stock Photo)

As mentioned, the Queen Mother remains the only female who held the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports title. It has since become a fully ceremonial role but was also previously held by the likes of Sir Winston Churchill and the Duke of Wellington. Alongside being the only female, the Queen Mother was the longest-serving Lord Warden in history, occupying the role from 1978 to 2002.

Walmer Castle

(Image credit: Stephen Giardina / Alamy Stock Photo)

Alongside the private apartment, visitors can enjoy the Queen Mother’s Garden, created by renowned garden designer Penelope Hobhouse to celebrate the Queen Mother’s 95th Birthday. ‘I have been given many flowers before, but never a garden,' the Queen Mother shared on the occasion. Designed along classical lines reflecting Hobhouse's interest in Islamic gardens, the space is a tranquil combination of still water, rich planting, and cool shades.

We can reserve tickets to Walmer Castle via English Heritage now. The apartment will remain open to guests throughout 2024. 

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.