Is there any better time of the year than the weekend a new season of The Crown drops? Especially during a pandemic when we're spending far more time at home than usual, the fourth season from Netflix's wildly popular drama about the modern British monarchy is worthy of a celebration in itself.
This latest inside look at the House of Windsor shines a light on Charles, Prince of Wales, as he meets Diana in the first episode of the season. It's not until episode four, however, that viewers get a look at Highgrove House, the Georgian Neoclassical manse built between 1796–98 that HRH has called home since 1980.
The episode (titled "Favourites") reveals a less-than-happy home life inside Highgrove, with a pregnant Princess Diana refusing to leave her bedroom when the Queen visits. Prince Charles subsequently complains to his mother about his wife, and acknowledges his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles has persisted.
The tragic life unfolding inside the house is poignantly juxtaposed with hope outside, even if that hope manifests from a self-indulgent source. As he give the Queen a tour through the grounds surrounding Highgrove and shares his plans to transform the bleak blank slate into gardens teeming with life, Prince Charles lights up with optimism. He even goes so far as to proclaim they will be a reflection of himself, drawing a rare reprimand from the Queen.
Charles's passion for planting makes it all the more painful to watch his utter lack of love for his wife play out, particularly as we all know the gardens continue to thrive while the marriage is long gone. For those curious to see the execution of the Prince's plans can indulge their royal garden fantasies with the virtual tour of Prince Charles’ garden at Highgrove House in Gloucestershire, which Google Arts & Culture launched in 2019.
With photos, videos, and “click and drag” Google Street View features, the virtual tour allows visitors to explore nearly all areas of the Royal Gardens at Highgrove House, from the Thyme Walk, a promenade lined with manicured golden yew topiaries, to the Stumpery, a wild corner outside that was inspired by the Victorian garden design concept of growing ferns among upturned tree stumps.
The virtual tour also highlights the innovations Prince Charles has instituted to ensure environmentally conscious upkeep of the gardens.
“Sustainability is at the heart of the Prince of Wales's management of the gardens,” the tour states, noting that waste material is recycled, rainwater is used for irrigation, and composting and natural fertilizers are used to ensure the gardens are as self-sufficient as possible.
Prince Charles's hand is also reflected in the transformation of the gardens in sculptural additions throughout, from busts of his Royal Highness at various stages of life peeking through clipped hedge “windows” to a wicker memorial to Tigga, his Jack Russell terrier who passed away in 2002 at age 18.
Inspiring landscaping ideas—from beautiful flowering shrubs, vines, and plants in the flower-filled Sundial Garden to outdoor fountain design like the Carpet Garden's tiled fountain surround inspired by a Turkish carpet—abound throughout this outdoor space.
The virtual tour even offers vegetable garden inspiration by showcasing the Kitchen Garden, with heritage fruits and vegetables grown in pots that make up the crosses of Saint George and Saint Andrew.
Most years, the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall, open the Royal Gardens at Highgrove to the public for guided tours on specific dates between April and October. Earlier this year, Prince Charles tested positive for COVID-19 but recovered fully, and the gardens were closed. Charles and Camilla isolated at Birkhall, their home in Scotland on the Balmoral estate.
Highgrove House plans to reopen to the public in Spring 2021, according to the website. Until then, you can get your royal fix by shopping the online Highgrove shop, which offers unique Christmas decorations and other items, as well as home furnishings, jewelry, and food and beverage gifts.
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