Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have bought a manor house, once owned by a Baltic German nobleman, Johan von Benckendorff, in Estonia.*
An international real estate broker, the Edinburgh-based Tartan Estates, announced on 1 April that Harry and Meghan had expanded their property portfolio by snapping up Jäneda manor in Estonia’s Lääne-Viru County, for an undisclosed sum. It is currently unclear whether the purchase is financed privately by the royal couple or by the Duchy of Cornwall, the private estate of Prince Charles.
The news came just as Meghan Markle and Prince Harry officially stepped down as senior members of the royal family. They will no longer use the titles, His and Her Royal Highness, and will no longer represent the Queen. However, Prince Harry will still be sixth in the line of succession to the British throne.
The Jäneda manor was first mentioned in 1510. Over the centuries, the estate belonged to several different Baltic German aristocratic families. The current manor building was built by Johan von Benckendorff from 1913-1915 in an eclectic Art Nouveau style with strong neo-Gothic influences.
Prince Harry served with Estonians in Afghanistan
The royal couple previously announced they would, in future, split their time between the UK and North America, but their purchase in Estonia raises a question whether they’re looking for somewhere more remote to live for a while – away from the preying paparazzi. When contacted by Estonian World, the couple’s spokesperson declined to comment on their long-term plans in Estonia. “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex would prefer that in the immediate weeks and months, the focus remains on the global response to COVID-19,” the spokesperson said.
Prince Harry knows Estonia and Estonians well. In 2007, he served with Estonians in Afghanistan, when the Estonian Estcoy-5 infantry company was under British command. He even exchanged battalion emblems with an Estonian soldier, Lt Tanel Tarlap, and later proudly wore the Estonian Guard Battalion’s Eagle on his body armour until the end of his deployment. About 800 British troops are currently stationed in Estonia as part of a NATO deployment. In May 2014, Harry also paid a visit to Estonia, proving popular with the locals.
Prince Harry married the American actress, Meghan Markle, in May 2018.
Long history of manor houses
As part of the Baltic German heritage in Estonia, the manor houses were once seen as the relics of oppression and neglected for decades. However, the tides of history have a habit of sometimes making sudden turns and so these days, the manor house complexes are under state protection and there is virtually nobody who would not consider manor house architecture as part of Estonia’s national treasure.
Most of the imposing manors were built over a century and half from 1760 until the beginning of World War I, mostly in the baroque and classicist styles. By that time, there were around two thousand different manor centres. According to the Estonian Manor Portal, there are currently 414 manor houses that have retained their original form and are in very good or good condition. But there are still many that have not been restored and still hoping to find a proud owner – fancy of following Harry and Meghan’s lead and buy a manor house in Estonia?
* Please note that this story was an April Fools’ Day joke.
Cover: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle going to church at Sandringham on Christmas Day 2017 (photo by Mark Jones/Wikipedia); The west side of Jäneda manor (photo by Tiit Hallas, shared under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 EE licence).