Late summer has officially arrived and, right on schedule, the Queen has taken up occupancy at Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands. The residence is open to the public until late July (a relatively recent development) and staff spent last week preparing it for the Royal Family while the Queen stayed nearby at Craigowan Lodge. Now, however, the tourists are gone, Philip’s last engagement is behind him and it’s time for a bit of respite.
The Queen decamps to Balmoral every August and usually stays through early October. The tradition is a holdover from the reign of Queen Victoria who purchased the house with her husband, Prince Albert, in 1848. The couple quickly renovated it to their taste, making it a country refuge of sorts where they and their children could act “naturally” surrounded by plenty of fresh air and nature. To this day, it remains a spot where the RF can enjoy privacy and a certain lack of formality, though definitions of what the latter mean have varied generation to generation.
Victoria spent increasingly amounts of time at Balmoral during her widowhood and it remained a spot where her growing number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren visited her when they came to Britain. And while her son, Edward VII, did away with a number of Victoria’s traditions, autumnal stints at Balmoral remained a part of the royal calendar during his brief reign in the early 20th century.
George V invested in significant renovations to the Palace once he ascended the throne, including the construction of additional gardens, a facet of the grounds that Philip continued in the 1950s. The only significant period of time in which the RF stopped making their annual retreat to the Highlands was during World War II, but it was quickly resumed in the post-war period.
It’s clearly a place that the Queen considers home, which is unsurprising given her memories of it span both her own childhood and that of her children. And it’s the location of any number of memorable anecdotes from Royal history, one’s appearance there generally fairly significant. The late Princess of Wales reportedly loathed the place, never taking to the unfamiliar customs of the family, however her invitation to it in the early days of her relationship with the Prince of Wales was quite the “moment.” Likewise, when Kate Middleton was invited there during her relationship with Prince William, the media similarly took it to be a sign of things to come. The Queen’s four children usually spend a couple weeks each summer visiting and just last September, the Queen was spotted driving with Kate to a picnic. And last week, the Queen was seen enjoying a picnic with her granddaughter, Zara Tindall and her husband, Mike.
Crowds of well-wishers met the Queen going into the Castle today and she inspected the guard of honour before going inside.
She bumped into a Shetland pony, Cruachan IV, who she recently met during a visit to Stirling Castle where he attempted to eat her bouquet of posies. At the time, the Queen leveled him with, “Go away.”
Today the pony neighed when she walked by, prompting her to turn around and say, “We know where you are.”
Is anyone else interested in a television series featuring the Queen and Cruachan embarking on a series of adventures? Preferably in the Highlands?