The most striking thing about Royal Lodge, the Gothic revival mansion on the Windsor estate – formerly home to the Queen Mother; now the residence of the Duke of York – is the sheer volume of needlepoint cushions in situ. “Born to golf, forced to work,” reads one plump example, nestled on a sofa in the grand hallway. “One very spoilt Yorkie lives here,” pronounces another. Most of us have jocular cushions somewhere in our homes, whether or not we care to admit it, but this 30-room royal residence surely boasts one of England’s biggest collections – and gives the Grade II-listed pile a cosy, distinctly normal quality
“Regular” is the word Princess Beatrice, the Duke’s elder daughter, uses to describe her upbringing. Greeting the Vogue team with a chirrupy “Hello!” on the sunny Sunday morning in June when we meet, she certainly looks like any other 29-year-old in weekend snooze mode. Wet-haired, make-up-free, tracksuit-clad and barefoot, with soft, pretty features, she leads me down a hallway to a chintz-filled guest bedroom (lots of little porcelain dogs) to meet her sister, Princess Eugenie. “Hi!” says the younger, more angular York sister, smiling up from her phone. “I’m trying to decide which picture to post on Instagram for Father’s Day.”
Eugenie, 28, is radiant and happy, largely on account of her engagement to her boyfriend of eight years, wine merchant Jack Brooksbank. She officially joined Instagram in March, though finds posting a fraught exercise. “I recently got in trouble for posting a picture of Papa in a corridor of the palace that was off-limits to the public,” she sighs. “A family snap from Balmoral?” suggests Tyne Lewin, the princesses’ jolly personal assistant. “Too private.” “That one on the front doorstep before Ascot last summer?” “Bit formal.” The princess later settles on an intimate childhood snapshot. Underneath, @alice_of shalott, one of her 250,000 followers, comments: “That’s what I love about this family: their amazing down-to-earth-ness.” Another user, @a_few_goodfoxes, writes: “So sweet! Princesses and Dukes. They’re just like us!!”
They’re not, of course. Their grandmother is the most photographed monarch in history. “She’s been on the throne 65 years,” muses Eugenie, who cites the Queen as the ultimate role model. “The dedication that she and our grandfather have put towards this country is incredible.” The princesses’ parents – Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Sarah, Duchess of York – have been among the most high-profile members of the Royal family. Although they divorced in 1996, they are still close friends and are both at home today (the Duchess lives at Royal Lodge when not in New York).