The villa on Malta where the newlywed Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip spent the early years of their marriage is undergoing a £9 million revamp before being opened to the public as a tourist attraction.

A listed Arcadian townhouse on the outskirts of the capital Valletta, Villa Guardamangia is the only place outside the UK that the Queen has ever called home.

She and the future Duke of Edinburgh lived there from 1949 to 1951, while Philip was stationed on the Mediterranean island as a naval officer.

The villa was leased to Philip’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten, who hosted the young couple before offering it to them as a home.

They enjoyed a life there that was free from the pressures of royal celebrity and the Princess was known to buzz around the cobbled local streets in a Morris Minor.

All that was soon to change. Her father George VI died in 1952 and Elizabeth was crowned Queen the following year.

Now a far cry from royal standards, Villa Guardamangia is in desperate need of rescue, its walls peeling and the gardens overgrown.

Much of the home was built in limestone in the mid-18th century as a summer house. Following the neglect of more recent decades, it has been acquired for £4.5 million by the Maltese government, which plans to restore it to its former splendour.

As well as six bedrooms there is a lounge, dining room, living room, kitchen, three bathrooms and two garages.

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