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YOU cannot turn on the TV without viewing life and death on an estate. Either the real news or some cop drama will show violence played out against the background of an estate. That’s why I decided to visit one of them to see if estate life was really as bad as painted.
That TV image wasn’t wrong. As I arrived the first thing I saw was a dark Land Rover Freelander on its side. Locals told me the car belonged to the Big Fella who seemed to be head honcho of the estate.
Just two days later things got really bloody. Innocent Patrick Panks drove onto the estate only to be told to “Fuck off you peasant” by a gang of men with guns and dogs who had blocked the road. One of the men — a gamekeeper — broke a stick over Patrick’s head leaving him bleeding.
These same gamekeepers a few years ago managed to keep at least one royal prince out of court when two of Britain’s rarest birds — hen harriers — were shot dead at Sandringham.
Police interviewed Prince Harry who had been shooting but the gamekeepers had literally buried the evidence. Now it seems Harry’s new US wife has stopped him blasting any birds out of the sky.
I realised this was clearly a deadly dangerous place. Further digging revealed a history of mass shootings and even a murder by morphine and cocaine injections.
So where is this place? It is in North Norfolk, 20,000 acres between Kings Lynn and Hunstanton and named Sandringham.
It is the private home of Queen Elizabeth who, did you know, much to her husband’s chagrin is the only person who can legally drive in Britain without a licence? No wonder it’s lawless.
The Queen needs no licence being immune from all civil and criminal laws. Buckingham Palace has told the Morning Star that she is always careful to comply with the law — so that’s all right then.
When Betty’s husband was pulled out of his upturned Land Rover he was spoken to by the police and breathalysed. Rural Conservatives immediately tweeted: “How very disrespectful of the police to breath-test His Royal Highness. Let us all give thanks to God that Prince Philip emerged uninjured. Our thoughts are with him tonight.”
Actually my thoughts were with the two injured women and the baby in the other, much smaller, car.
Philip got an identical replacement Land Rover delivered the next day and was soon spotted driving without a seat belt — an offence that would get you or me three points and a sixty quid fine — Phil got just a friendly police warning.
Sandringham has been the personal possession of the sovereign since 1862. Queen Victoria bought it for £220,000 as a present for her 22-year-old son the well known reprobate and womaniser Edward, Prince of Wales — later King Edward VII. He soon decided it was not big enough for the grand entertaining he planned and ordered huge extensions doubling its size.
He first used it as a country home and shooting lodge where the scale of the slaughter of pheasants, partridges, hares and other wildlife was colossal. Annual kills had reached over 20,000 a year by 1900. The game larder was the largest in Europe.
Edward’s Sandringham became notorious for rowdy drunken parties as well as secret trysts where the king entertained many upper class married ladies, actresses, music hall artistes and many other sexual conquests.
King George V, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicholas II were royal cousins, the first two were grandsons of Queen Victoria, the latter her grandson by marriage. No doubt the three young lads met at family gatherings at Sandringham.
By 1914, on the eve of world war, the three cousins controlled the destiny of Europe and the lives and deaths of millions.
During the war Tsar Nicholas II stayed at Sandringham, he and Edward VII decided to walk home after a shooting party without their bodyguards. They got lost but eventually found themselves at a train station.
On the train the guard asked to see their tickets, Edward replied: “I am the King of England and this is the Tsar of Russia.” To which the guard responded “And I am the Archbishop of Canterbury — now show me your tickets.”
In 1917 George changed the royal family name from the embarrassingly German sounding Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the very British sounding Windsor. It so easily could have been Sandringham.
In 1932 George V made the first Christmas radio broadcast from here. No need for the King to think of what to say, Rudyard Kipling wrote it for him.
Our present Queen’s grandfather George V and her father George VI both chose Sandringham as a peaceful place to die.
George V died at Sandringham at 11.55pm on January 20 1936, his death sped up by injections of morphine and cocaine, first to maintain the king’s dignity, but more importantly to meet the deadline for an announcement in the Times newspaper.
After George’s death the estate passed to his son Edward VIII. He spent just one night at Sandringham with his American lover Mrs Simpson but Norfolk did not suit them. They preferred the bright lights of London, Paris, New York or even visiting their good friends and political soulmates Adolf and Eva in Berlin.
When Edward was forced to abdicate he demanded his brother George VI buy Sandringham and Balmoral from him for nearly a third of a million pounds.
George, a heavy smoker, had part of his lung removed in September 1951. He never fully recovered and died at Sandringham early in February 1952. He had shot a few hares the day before. Special royal tax arrangements meant that no inheritance tax was paid when Sandringham and Balmoral passed to Elizabeth.
Today Sandringham has a racing pigeon loft, a race horse stud and a gun dog breeding business, a profitable shoot and farm and also makes thousands from tourism. The private railway station that served the house for over a century is now closed.
There are many other luxurious large and small houses on the estate. One, Anmer Hall, is now country home to Prince William, second in line to the throne. Wood Farm is a secluded cottage where Prince Philip has lived since his retirement.
In case you think my talk of Sandringham Estate being dangerous is an exaggeration in 2007 the house and its grounds were officially made a protected site under Section 128 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. This makes it a criminal offence to trespass in the house or its grounds.
As the Morning Star’s recently appointed Crime and Royal Correspondent (thanks editor!) I rest my case.
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