IT was the grandiose setting for an event which changed the course of British history.

Nestled in the grounds of Windsor Great Park, Fort Belvedere is the former home of the late Queen's uncle King Edward VIII, who signed his abdication papers there in 1936.

But for decades the home – which remains part of the Crown Estate and sits on a 59 acre estate – has slipped under the radar.

It's currently occupied by the billionaire Weston family, who reportedly have a close relationship with the royals and even hosted the late Queen there.

While her Majesty never lived at the property, it's believed it was recently considered as an option for Prince William and Kate Middleton while they were looking to move closer to Windsor.

The Waleses eventually chose the more modest Adelaide Cottage on the same estate.


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Here we take a look inside the sprawling Fort Belvedere and delve into its shocking past.

Grand designs

Fort Belvedere was built in the 1820s by the order of King George II for his son, Prince William Augustus.

Initially it was just a folly, but it was later enlarged at a proposed cost of £4,000 – roughly £344,890 today.

In the 1860s Queen Victoria used the property as a tea house and opened it to the public.

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By 1929 the building was unoccupied and handed to Prince Edward by his father George V at his request.

The King was said to have been baffled by his son's desire to take on the decaying property, but agreed.

Under Edward the house saw a great revival; he spent thousands of his own money renovating it and enlarging it even further.

Between 1931 and 1932, the future king was keen to put his own stamp on Fort Belvedere.

He installed a huge swimming pool, tennis court and even a Turkish bath.

Edward is reported to have had his own planes and built a private landing area in front of the fort.

He also introduced central heating to the property, as well as a steam room and bathrooms opposite every room – a rare luxury for British homes at the time.

The total cost of renovations was £21,000, which would have been over £1.8million in 2022.

Edward is said to have thrown exclusive lavish parties at the property which became his main residence.

It was there that his controversial relationship with Wallis Simpson blossomed.


The couple fell in love in the early 1930s, and staff members at Fort Belvedere claimed they'd caught Edward in bed with the American divorcee – something he denied to the King.

When George V died in 1936, Edward ascended the throne.

But people in royal circles were uncomfortable about Edwards's relationship with Wallis, who was still married at the time.

Their relationship caused friction between Edward and his mother and brother, the then Prince George.

Edward's eventual decision to wed Wallis – who was already twice-married – created a major constitutional crisis in the country and remains the biggest royal scandal to engulf the Firm.

The Conservative government at the time, led by Stanley Baldwin, was strongly opposed to the union.

The prime minister even visited Edward at Fort Belvedere several times to hold talks with him.

Edward eventually decided to abdicate the throne so he could be with Wallis, and hosted his brother for dinner the night before he made the historical announcement.

The king signed his abdication papers at the property in 1936, which led his brother – father to the future Elizabeth II – to ascend the throne as George VI.

Edward married Wallis in France on June 3, 1937. They lived in Paris but he continued paying the gardeners and insurance on the property as he believed he would one day return to his beloved property.

But in 1940, he received a message that he no longer owned Fort Belvedere, as his warrant to be in possession of the property had expired on his abdication.

He was told his brother the King had chosen not to renew the warrant – leaving him devastated.

Modern times

The property remained unoccupied for 20 years following Edward's abdication, and was "falling to pieces".

In 1955, a 99-year lease was bought by Gerald Lascelles, Elizabeth II's first cousin, who renovated it and erased most traces of Edward's decor.

While living there with his wife Angela and son Henry, he is said to have reduced the 30-40 rooms of the fort to the equivalent of an eight-bedroom house, including quarters for three or four staff.

Gerald described it as "a very manageable home".

Following a costly divorce from Angela, he put the remaining 78-year lease up for sale, and it was bought by the son of the Emir of Dubai in 1976.

According to the listing, the six-bedroom house features a hexagonal central hall, a "fine drawing room", a dining room, library, "compact domestic quarters" and five bathrooms, arranged mainly in suites.

Charles' stables

Canadian billionaire Galen Weston and his wife Hilary leased Fort Belvedere from the early 1980s until his death in 2021.

His family – which owns a majority in Associated British Foods, the company that controls Primark – continue to occupy it.

The property now boasts extensive gardens, including 120 feet borders at the base of the battlements.

There are also formal gardens as well as a rose garden, a walled garden, a kitchen garden and a large greenhouse.

Outbuildings include a grooms cottage, a garden cottage, stables and garages.

There are now two tennis courts, a 460 feet-long allée, two long sweeping driveways, two lakes, paddocks, numerous lawns and a turning circle.

The Westons also built a polo stud, and King Charles III played polo there with Galen and stables his ponies on the premises.

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The family hosted the Queen and Prince Philip at Hilary's 60th birthday party.

The Crown Estate retains ownership of the freehold, as it's still part of Windsor Great Park.

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