In the parts of Prince Charles’s Gloucestershire residence that are publicly photographed and much talked about, there’s one part of which very little is known. And there’s a good reason for this, as we’ll now see.
There are, in the UK, plans and arrangements made all the time for the safety of the Royal Family in the event of a crisis. We don’t often hear about them for obvious reasons, which is why many people wonder whether they exist – but they do. They have to.
A couple of years ago, there was a famous media frenzy over speculation that the Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace was designed to be able to be converted into an airstrip in the event of a national crisis requiring a quick exit from the Palace for Her Majesty and the Royal Family. It is not. Experts said it wouldn’t be practical and is certainly not setup to accommodate aircraft.
Peter Laurie, in his book ’Beneath The City Streets’, claimed that the Broad Walk, in Kensington Gardens, could be used as an airstrip, however. Laurie also speculated that there might be a secret exit from Buckingham Palace to the Victoria Line which runs below. It has also been claimed that a tunnel exists running from the palace down the Mall to the Duke of York steps, where it connects with the network of tunnels and underground bunkers that run below Whitehall to protect the government from rioting mobs.
During World War 2, the King and Queen were said to have resided at Buckingham Palace for the duration, which was partially true, though it later emerged that Their Majesties retired to Windsor Castle in the nights, where the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were staying for the duration of the war.
Other failsafes we know about include recently declassified files detailing how during the Cold War, The Queen was to be put aboard a “floating bunker” in the form of the Royal Yacht Britannia and moved around remote Scottish lochs in the event of a nuclear attack on Britain. She would have been kept separate from the Prime Minister because in the event that the Prime Minister was killed, only The Queen holds the power to appoint a Prime Minister and she would have needed to do so. Under the so-called “python system”, The Queen would hide in sea lochs on the coast of North West Scotland while other senior ministers scattered to a variety of secret locations.
It also comes down to the basic things which ensure the safety of the Monarch and her successors. For example, Prince Charles and Prince William never notably travel in the same car together; and supplies of The Queen’s blood being kept to hand.
And Prince Charles is certainly no exception to rigid safety systems setup. In Highgrove House, the Prince of Wales’s Gloucestershire residence is a room known to staff as ‘the Iron Room’. Constructed in July 1987, the room was built to give the then Prince and Princess of Wales a safe location to hide in the event of a terrorist attack. Even today, this room continues to be maintained in the event that an attack should occur on the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.
The room is a 20 foot by 20 foot steel-lined structure, supposedly designed to drop straight to the ground on the occasion that the rest of the house was destroyed. It features medical supplies, supplies of the Prince’s and Duchess’s blood and enough food to survive for weeks in isolation.
Hopefully, these safety precautions: the ones we do and the ones we don’t know about will never have to be used, but there is a degree of reassurance in knowing that such fallbacks do exist, however unlikely their use may be.