She spent perhaps the happiest years of her married life there, but a row over the Queen’s former home in Malta means she will be denied the chance of a final romantic visit when she arrives on the island today.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh spent two years living at the Villa Guardamangia in Valletta when the Duke was based there with the Royal Navy in the early years of their marriage. It allowed them the sort of carefree existence denied to them ever since the Queen’s accession.
The couple will spend three days in Malta for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, but the villa is in such a poor state of repair that a nostalgic return is out of the question.
The Maltese government had hoped to buy the building and renovate it as a tourist attraction, but a drawn-out legal wrangle with its current owners means nothing has been done.
As a result its stonework is crumbling, paintwork peeling, shutters falling apart, ironwork rusting and weeds have overtaken the garden where the Queen and the Duke once relaxed in the Mediterranean sun.
The condition of the house – the only place outside the UK the Queen has ever called home – has become something of an embarrassment to the Maltese government. It has carried out surveys and estimates on the restoration cost, only to reach stalemate in its attempts to buy the property.
Marika Schembri, who lives in the villa and co-owns it with her siblings, told The Daily Telegraph: “Something is going to happen to this house one day, but maybe not for another ten years.”
The Queen reportedly asked to see the house when she and the Duke last visited Malta in 2007 for their Diamond Wedding Anniversary, but the then owners are said to have refused. She last went inside in 1992, during a State visit.
The grand home, which was rented by the Duke’s uncle, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, at the time the couple stayed there, could eventually be turned into a museum, but there are fears that if the row cannot be settled the current owners could sell it to developers wanting to demolish it and build flats.
NEO Monitoring Report