What can the royal family tell us about the home? Nothing, if you take the view, as many republicans do, that their life is so divorced from reality as to make any comparisons absurd.
But it is also possible to look at the Queen, as a matriarch, as a mother-of-four, or indeed, as the chief executive of a series of homes which have been systematically opened up to the public.
Of course, her homes are unlike anything else in the world. Balmoral is a Hogwarts fairy tale. Sandringham, a Christmas bolt-hole. Windsor, the longest continually-inhabited castle in Europe. Buckingham Palace, an emblem of Britishness and headquarters of what even the royal family jokingly call ‘The Firm’.
Hundreds of people are employed to make these houses habitable for the Sovereign and her guests (who can range from Barack Obama to the 8,000 people who pack the rear grounds for one of her summer garden parties).
Most of her subjects, myself included, do not have the luxury of an army of domestic staff and, for some people, the monarch’s apparent life of ease is the cause of bitterness.
In reality her life is anything but indolent. Queen Elizabeth is a model of self-less public service and the way she runs her several homes does have lessons for those of us of more modest means.
Famously, our head of state is prudent. Some people scoffed at those key-hole disclosures that the Queen and Prince Philip breakfasted from Tupperware containers containing breakfast cereals. The same critics who lambasted the royal family for profligacy and wasting taxpayers’ money, were happy to carp about her housewifery.
But the Queen is also someone for whom home can never be the refuge from the cares of the world that it is for the bulk of us. Few of us live in properties besieged by tourists and tat-peddlers, or guarded by battalions of infantry and cavalrymen. Few of us must open up our home to VIPs from home and abroad, or have our visitors chosen for us by the Government of the day.
Just because the sovereign’s homes are palaces, does not absent her from the pressure many of her subjects feel about their homes. A couple of years ago her staff were locked in a dispute with the Government about the upkeep of Buckingham Palace, the quadrangle of which was beginning fall into dilapidation.
And, although the Queen does not need to worry about the building society calling in the loan, there must be a pressure to act as a successful custodian of all that historic real estate; to make sure it is kept safe from a covetous state and handed on her successors.
Homes are different things to different people. For Her Majesty, a home can be a gilded cage, or a global stage. We can only speculate and hope that, somewhere, within one of those rambling palaces, there is a space which is intimate, personal and private; a home within a home. Not grand but, nevertheless, fit for a Queen.