Princess whose rent Queen covers sells home

PRINCE and Princess Michael of Kent have finally sold their country mansion for £5.75 million following a drop in the asking price a year after it went on the market.

The sale of Nether Lypiatt Manor, which sits in 36 acres of rolling Cotswold countryside, came after the Queen told the couple she would not pay the rent on their London apartment beyond 2009.

Four years ago, MPs expressed their anger at the "outrageous" grace-and-favour deal which enabled the couple to live in multi-million pound apartments in Kensington Palace for as little as 69 a week.

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The Queen stepped in to cover the reported 125,000 annual cost of the seven-bedroom residence temporarily, but this will run out in three years' time.

Nether Lypiatt, near Stroud in Gloucestershire, failed to attract a buyer until Prince Michael, 62, and the princess, 60, lowered the asking price from 6 million in February.

The artist Damien Hirst and Noel Edmonds, host of Channel 4's Deal or No Deal, were among a string of potential buyers who came to view the house, but mystery surrounds the eventual buyer, who is understood to have exchanged contracts last week.

The princess bought the 18th-century Grade I listed house for less than 300,000 in 1981, which means the couple have made a 5.45 million profit on the property.

Over the years she has earned herself the nickname "Princess Pushy" after allegedly squandering taxpayers' money and exploiting her Royal status.

Critics claim the Austrian-born princess, the daughter of a Nazi SS officer, is a freeloader who has lived a life of luxury for the past two decades at British taxpayers' expense.

Nether Lypiatt was put on the market last April after the couple's children left home and the prince and princess moved to their apartment at Kensington Palace.

The Queen, Prince Michael's cousin, has agreed to pay the rent from her private funds until 2009.

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Buckingham Palace said in 2002 that the rent was being paid in recognition of the prince and princess's unpaid work in support of the monarchy and various charities.

Members of the Commons public accounts committee who toured Kensington Palace to investigate the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by the couple and others at the expense of the taxpayer, branded the living arrangements a "scandal".

In a scathing attack which followed the visit, MPs called for an end to a system which left public-sector workers living in "cubicles" while the Kents, who do not undertake any Royal duties, lived in a seven-bedroom apartment for just 69 a week.

The princess voiced her upset at the decision to sell Nether Lypiatt in an interview last year.

She said the couple had pinned their hopes on staying on at the palace.

She said: "Having been given the Kensington Palace apartment for life, I assumed we would live the rest of our days there and I thought we would sell this house ... and that would be our income.

"The shock is that we've lost our old age pension because we can't do that any more."

The sale of Nether Lypiatt, which is reportedly haunted and has had seven owners in 100 years, was beset with problems.

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A property expert who has viewed the eight-bedroomed mansion, said it needed sprucing up. He said: "It's full of drapes, scent and all that. The pictures and portraits are a distraction. It's a seriously pretty house on the outside, but it needs all the clutter taking out - it's got dog-eared.''

Noel Edmonds was unimpressed with the property's lack of privacy.

He said: "It is the last sort of house that I would find suitable - not least because it has a road running right along the front of it. And I like my privacy."

A spokesman for Savills, which handled the sale, declined to comment on the buyer.

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