Queen Elizabeth, 96, is under medical supervision at her beloved Balmoral Castle in Scotland — a place where the Queen of England has always felt most comfortable and acted most like her subjects.
Balmoral Castle — described by visitors as “freaky” and “surreal” — is the vast countryside escape where the longtime monarch had enthusiastically washed her own dishes.
The Hogwarts-looking Scottish summer home is where the royal and her predecessors annually summered for almost two centuries.
Just off the River Dee in the nation’s northern Aberdeenshire, the secluded, eleven-bedroom estate — where Prince Philip got engaged to Queen Elizabeth in 1946 — was reported to have been one of her most favorite places in all of the United Kingdom, let alone the world.
Each year, she enjoys spending the warm months at the castle with her grand princes and princesses as well as other high-profile guests.
But the feel of Balmoral is polar opposite to Buckingham Palace — it’s actually closer to a cozy home in the quiet woods of upstate New York.
The queen and her royal relatives even act “as normal people – to a point” while at Balmoral, former royal librarian Jane Roberts told The Telegraph in 2011.
Meanwhile the estate itself is described as “homely rather than grand” and the monarch is known to have a cushion embroidered with “It’s good to be Queen,” according to The Guardian.
Her Majesty is also said to ponder “important events in the sitting room clutter of paper piles, books, china ornaments and family photographs, in front of a thistle-tiled fireplace hosting an incongruous electric heater.”
But it is the outdoorsy nature of Balmoral which puts the queen at her best, Elizabeth’s granddaughter, Princess Eugenie once said in an ITV interview, according to Women and Home.
“It’s the most beautiful place on earth. I think Granny is the most happy there. I think she really, really loves the Highlands,” Princess Eugenie said in June, going on to describe what the day-to-day life was like in the queen’s paradise.
“Walks, picnics, dogs – a lot of dogs, there’s always dogs – and people coming in and out all the time. It’s a lovely base for Granny and Grandpa, for us to come and see them up there; where you just have room to breathe and run.”
A royal pain
Although Balmoral is a favorite to frolic for the queen, not all royals — nor British prime ministers — felt the same magic during their trips.
Princess Diana was especially down on Balmoral for several reasons. Prominently because it’s where she spent a “less-than-romantic honeymoon” with Prince Charles in 1981, according to Sally Bedell Smith’s biography “Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch.”
In ways of showing her distaste, the late princess reportedly behaved like a rebellious teenager around the royal family in Scotland, Prince Philip told Smith.
“She didn’t appear for breakfast. At lunch she sat with her headphones on, listening to music, and then she would disappear for a walk or a run.”
Diana also found the castle to be dreary and would particularly complain that “the minute you went out of a room there was always somebody switching off a light behind you,” according to Smith, the biographer.
Balmoral was also where Princes William and Harry learned of their mother’s fatal car accident in 1997, Town & Country reported.
Diana wasn’t the only one to feel doom and gloom during her stay. Prime Minister Tony Blair said the countryside fortress felt like “a vivid combination of the intriguing, the surreal and the utterly freaky,” whereas Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher described the venue as “purgatory,” per The Guardian.
Thatcher would even plan to leave at 6 a.m. on her last day because ““she couldn’t get away fast enough,” a Whitehall official told the outlet.
But in the queen’s summer bliss, she didn’t hesitate to poke fun at the politician’s uneasiness. When once asked if Thatcher enjoyed walking the hills of Balmoral, Elizabeth responded, “The hills? The hills? She walks on the road!” according to Smith.
Washing your own dishes while eating like a queen
Arguably the biggest culture shock at Balmoral is that the queen insists on being a top-notch homemaker — particularly after meals when she washes dishes herself.
“You think I’m joking, but I’m not. They put the gloves on and stick their hands in the sink. The Queen asks if you’ve finished, she stacks the plates up and goes off to the sink,” Blair said, according to The Guardian.
The paper also reported that Thatcher once gifted the Queen with rubber gloves after seeing her wash without them.
Blair also observed that Elizabeth fancies drinks — especially a gin and dubonnet — made powerful as “true rocket fuel,” Blair said per the Evening Standard.
She and Prince Philip had elaborate cookouts on the grounds for many years, according to Smith.
“When they are out having their barbecues, which they love to do out in the grounds of Balmoral – it’s a massive estate, the most beautiful grounds – where they literally set up a barbecue. And afterward the Queen does the washing up.”
As for indoor meals, the queen hads “her dinner off a tray looking at the television,“ Royal biographer Lady Colin Campbell said during the TV show “Secrets Of The Royal Kitchen.”
“She likes it. It’s homely and cosy and it’s comfortable.”
Her Majesty is also said to be a devout “Dr. Who” fan and binged the show while at Balmoral, The Sun reported.
Call of the wild
The queen and her kin’s known love toward animals extend to within the Balmoral grounds.
Despite bats being known to “defecate all over the place,” Elizabeth II insists on treating them mercifully, The Sun reported.
“Her Majesty has even pointed them out to her staff so they can catch them with nets,” according to the report.
When visiting the Balmoral estate, Prince Charles, who stays with Camilla at Birkhall, also has shown an affinity to the grounds’ creatures, great and small.
“He is completely infatuated by the red squirrels that live around the estate in Scotland — to the extent that he’s given them names and is allowing them into the house,” Prince William said, according to Town & Country.
“They come into the house at Birkhall and we get them chasing each other round and round inside. If I sit quietly, they will do so around me,” William added. “Sometimes, when I leave my jackets on a chair with nuts in the pockets, I see them with their tails sticking out, as they hunt for nuts — they are incredibly special creatures.”
Balmoral — which recently opened to the public for the months that the royal family is absent — even features a live “squirrel cam” on its website.
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