Madresfield Court: The King's redoubt if Hitler called

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January 1941: the Battle of Britain, so long in the balance during the summer and autumn of the previous year, is lost. The Germans, despite heavy casualties sustained during four months of desperate fighting following their landings near Dover, Folkestone and Eastbourne, have broken through the British line at Ashford and are preparing a thrust towards London. It is time to institute Black Move.

In the dead of night, a company of the Coldstream Guards, known as the Coates Commission after its commanding officer, arrives in an armoured convoy at Buckingham Palace. King George VI, who has resisted repeated requests to leave the capital, is waiting with his family. Bombs are falling as the convoy makes its way north and west out of the blacked-out metropolis and then, via lonely side roads, deep into the heart of England. Five hours later, as the first fleck of light defines the Malvern Hills, the Royal Family reaches its destination, a country house earmarked years before for this very eventuality. Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret are served cocoa and then, exhausted by the sleepless night, shown to their rooms. The king cannot sleep. Accompanied by his wife, he insists on taking a walk in the grounds, his thoughts consumed by the mortal danger facing his realm.

It could have been like this, at Madresfield Court....

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