For years, ‘living like royalty’ has been the phrase by which ordinary people have focused their hopes and dreams.

But with the Queen’s decision to spend the next two weeks away from the splendour of Windsor Castle, in the modest surroundings of Wood Farm on the Sandringham estate, that aspiration may not seem quite so inviting.

This is her most unusual royal home. She can be found in the simple furnished sitting room, where she loves to light a fire and the kitchen, where she often does the dishes.

It is the Queen’s way of doing things.

From the simply furnished sitting room where she likes to put a log on the fire, to the kitchen where she can often be found doing the washing up, this is the most unlikely of royal residences

The simple, unadorned sitting room is where she enjoys putting a log on the fireplace, and it’s the kitchen that she spends most of her time doing dishes.

Wood Farm is her home. She feels at home every time she enters the front door.

Since the 1960s when Princess Philip and she had the idea to convert the Sandringham home of the Sandringham resident physician into a weekend retreat for Prince Charles, while he was studying at Cambridge University.

Charles passed on and Philip arrived, beginning a tradition that would endure for decades.

The Wood Farm is where they went whenever the royal couple needed to be away from all the chaos of palace life.

Stripped of the kind of suffocating formality of the Queen’s other homes, there are far fewer of the rituals that usually govern her life. The few staff members who were accompanied by them could wear plain country clothing rather than the royal scarlet-and–navy livery.

Whenever the royal couple wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of palace life, it was usually to the unassuming Wood Farm that they escaped

When the royal couple needed to be away from the bustle and bustle in palace life it was often to the quiet Wood Farm.

More than anything, it was the place where they could escape the pressures of monarchy and the unceasing spotlight for a life that would not seem much different to that enjoyed by the majority of the Queen’s subjects.

And when the Duke of Edinburgh stood down from public duties in 2017, it was where he chose to spend his retirement — until the Covid-19 pandemic saw him reunite with his wife at Windsor, where he died last April.

So there is something especially poignant about the Queen’s decision to return to the house for the first time since Philip’s death. This house is full of some her most happy memories. She and Philip loved to spend one week together around Halloween each year. Sometimes they would go with their friends, but sometimes it was just them.

‘They adored the simplicity of what Wood Farm represented,’ says a courtier. ‘For the Duke, it was the light which he thought was perfect to paint by, and the proximity to the sea only a couple of miles away.

‘The Queen likes the unfussiness — the sense of getting away from it all and being able to slip out for a walk with the dogs whenever she likes.’

The Queen wanted to visit Sandringham last Christmas for the traditional winter holiday, but she chose to remain in Windsor to deal with Omicron cases.

¿The Queen likes the unfussiness ¿ the sense of getting away from it all and being able to slip out for a walk with the dogs whenever she likes¿

‘The Queen likes the unfussiness — the sense of getting away from it all and being able to slip out for a walk with the dogs whenever she likes’

She had to cancel her holiday trip for the second consecutive year due to the pandemic.

This came after she’d suffered a bout of ill health in the autumn, causing her to pull out of a number of official events, including the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph.

After spending the night in hospital, and then resting, she was able to return to light duty.

The coronavirus restrictions were lifted and the queen immediately started planning for a visit to Norfolk. One reason was a wish to give the staff who ‘bubbled’ with her at Windsor a break.

A second is even more important. The estate will be hers until February 6th accession, the day that marks the 70th birthday of George VI’s passing, when Sandringham was his home.

It also marks the start of Platinum Jubilee celebrations. They will culminate at a bank holiday extravaganza on June 6.

The break at Wood Farm, where many of Philip’s possessions are just as they were, will help prepare her for these coming events.

Her 95-year old age doesn’t mean she’s alone. There’s her page, Paul Whybrew, her dresser, Angela Kelly, a footman to help with her dogs — two corgis and a dorgi (a dachshund-corgi cross) — two chefs and a housekeeper to look after her.

There are two police officers and a chauffeur nearby.

Things can become crowded. You will see the entrance to the hall that leads to the dining room and kitchen for staff. It was renovated in 2005.

She will remain on the estate until after February 6, accession day, which marks the 70th anniversary of the death of her father, George VI

After February 6th, accession day (which marks the 70th year of George VI’s death), she will continue to live on the estate.

Beyond is the Queen’s intimate dining room, and her sitting room with its welcoming fire, where she often likes to put her feet up in the afternoons.

The property’s back yard is home to a large saloon that can often be used for lunches up to 20 persons.

Upstairs is the Queen’s bedroom, and another four guest rooms. Eight staff bedrooms are located in the vicinity.

‘It’s the one place where you get to see Her Majesty really up close,’ says a former aide.

‘There’s no waiting on ceremony, though — her hands are as likely to be in the kitchen sink as the housekeeper’s.’

She is likely to spend her morning catching up on her government red boxes of official papers — and the afternoons taking her dogs for gentle walks or visiting the Sandringham stud to check on the progress of her racehorses.

Philip and she used to love inviting friends over for weekend get-togethers. The Queen is not likely to be alone as she will experience great losses, particularly in the form of her companions.

Even though none of her kids are able, they will all be able join her. Wood Farm, despite its simplicity has been a favorite destination of every royal generation.

Prince William was first to entertain Kate Middleton there at a St Andrews shooting party. It is also where Prince Edward spent discrete weekends with Sophie Rhys-Jones prior to their marriage.

It is hidden at the end a long driving trip and almost invisible from the roads, making it a great choice for couples looking to court.

Prince Charles, a bachelor, used Wood Farm to entertain friends and girls, as well as host shooting parties.

The Duchess was permitted to remain at the home for Christmas after her divorce from Prince Andrew. Sandringham invitations were not possible.

Decades earlier it had been the secret home of the so-called ‘lost prince’. The Queen did not know this uncle, Prince John.

The Queen cancelled her festive trip to Sandringham for the second year running because of the pandemic

Due to the pandemic, Queen Elizabeth II cancelled Sandringham’s festive visit for the second time in a row.

Prince John was born 1905. At the time of his diagnosis, he had epilepsy. When his condition worsened, at 11 years old, his parents George V (and Queen Mary) decided to hide their son from the world.

He was sent to Wood Farm by his parents, who placed him with a nurse. There, he had fun with the children of Wood Farm and also kept an assortment of farmyard animals.

After taking him on walks and helping him learn, the nurse kissed him goodbye as she laid him down.

Her duty was to provide Johnny with the same love and affection that her parents refused. She was responsible for keeping him out of the public eye, as was the Royal Family.

The young prince died after a seizure at the age 13 and is buried in St Mary Magdalene church on the Sandringham estate, where the Queen usually worships on Christmas Day, and where Princess Diana — who was born nearby — was baptised.

For several years the farmhouse was home to the Queen’s physician, Dr James Ansell, before it was renovated for the student Prince of Wales.

The Queen herself first stayed there in 1968 — beginning a love affair with the property that is still going strong more than half a century later.