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Wealthy American refused to give up home near Brentwood for the Queen

PUBLISHED: 12:00 05 June 2012

Prof Ged Martin

Prof Ged Martin

Archant

»If a local MP had been invited to her wedding, the Queen might have spent the first years of her married life living at Brentwood,

The Queen, as Princess Elizabeth, married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten in 1947. As heir to the throne, she would have a London home and a country residence. However, post-war shortages narrowed the choice of big houses.

Clarence House, her planned London home, had been bombed and repairs were needed. So she had to be near London.

Country houses had suffered during the war too. Many had been closed because their owners could not afford to run them. Some were used by the Army, which often wrecked them.

Belhus at Aveley and Weald Hall at South Weald both had to be demolished. A country house was found for the Queen near Ascot, but just before the wedding, it burned down.

The Palace quietly asked Henry Channon to lend his country house to the young couple. A wealthy American who had become a British subject, Channon, nicknamed Chips, was Tory MP for Southend.

In 1937, he had bought Kelvedon Hall near Brentwood as his country home, to be near his voters.

One of the richest men in Britain, Chips became a friend of royalty and had enough cash to keep his estate running through the war. “Chips” loved Kelvedon Hatch, words like “paradise” and “bewitched” run through his diary.

Even for England’s future Queen, it was too much to give up his Essex home.

He was disappointed not to be invited to the wedding. Too many overseas dignitaries had to be fitted into the Abbey, so he said no.

In the early years of the Queen’s reign, the royal court was sometimes criticised for being out of touch.

Perhaps if the Queen had lived in Essex, she would have seen more of ordinary suburban life. Official duties often took her to London, where her father king George VI was dying of lung cancer.

The Queen’s motorcade would have got to know Gallows Corner, although the famous roundabout was less of a bottleneck in those days.

The royal party would have caught the train at Brentwood or Harold Wood

Shopping

Royal security was less tight in the 1940s, but it is unlikely that the princess would have gone shopping in Romford Market!

When Chips said no, a country house was found for the young couple in Surrey.

Chips died in 1958 and his son Paul was elected MP for Southend West. He was 21 and a student at Oxford. Paul Channon served in Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet. In 1997 he became Lord Kelvedon. Chips wanted to become an English lord. Perhaps if he had lent his house, he would have got his title.

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