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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 most like her subjects.
Balmoral Castle – described by visitors as ‘freaky’ and ‘surreal’ – is the sprawling countryside escape where the ancient monarch had enthusiastically washed her own dishes.
The Hogwarts-style Scottish summer home is where the royal family and its predecessors spent the summer annually for nearly two centuries.
Just off the River Dee in north Aberdeenshire, the secluded eleven-bedroom estate – where Prince Philip got engaged to Queen Elizabeth in 1946 – is said to have been one of her most favorite places in all of the UK, let alone the world.
Every year she likes to spend the warm months in the castle with her grand princes and princesses and other high-profile guests.
But the feel of Balmoral is the opposite of Buckingham Palace – it’s actually closer to a cozy house in the quiet woods of upstate New York.
The Queen and her royal relatives even acted “like normal people — to a degree” while at Balmoral, former royal librarian Jane Roberts told me. The Telegraph in 2011.
Meanwhile, the estate itself is described as “homely rather than grand” and the monarch is known to have embroidered a pillow with “It’s good to be queen”, according to The Guardian.
Her Majesty would also reflect on “significant events in the sitting room with piles of paper, books, china ornaments and family photos, in front of a thistle-tiled fireplace with an incongruous electric heater.”
“It is the most beautiful place on earth. I think that’s where grandma is happiest. I think she really, really loves the Highlands,” Princess Eugenie said in June, describing what everyday life was like in the Queen’s paradise.
“Hiking, picnicking, dogs – lots of dogs, there are always dogs – and people coming in and out all the time. It’s a nice base for grandma and grandpa, for us to come and see them up there; where you just have room to breathe and run.”
A royal pain
While Balmoral is a favorite to frolic for the Queen, not all members of the royal family — nor British Prime Ministers — felt the same magic in their travels.
Princess Diana was especially down on Balmoral for several reasons. Especially since she spent a “less-than-romantic honeymoon” here with Prince Charles in 1981, according to Sally Bedell Smith’s biography “Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch.”
To show her disgust, the late princess reportedly behaved like a rebellious teenager around the royal family in Scotland, Prince Philip told Smith.
“She didn’t show up for breakfast. During lunch she would sit with her headphones on, listen to music, and then she would disappear for a walk or a run.”
Diana also found the castle gloomy, mainly complaining that “the moment you left a room, someone always turned 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, City and country reported.
Diana was not the only one to feel doom and gloom during her stay. Prime Minister Tony Blair said the rural fortress felt like “a vibrant combination of the intriguing, the surreal and the utterly freaky,” while Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher described the location as “purgatory,” according to The Guardian.
Thatcher would even plan to leave at 6 a.m. on her last day because “she couldn’t get out fast enough,” a Whitehall official told the outlet.
But in the queen’s summer bliss, she did not hesitate to mock the politician’s unease. When asked if Thatcher enjoyed walking through the Balmoral Hills, Elizabeth replied, ‘The Hills? The hills? She’s walking down the road!” according to Smith.
Washing your own dishes while eating like a queen
Perhaps the biggest culture shock at Balmoral is that the Queen insists on being a first-class housewife – especially after meals when she does the dishes herself.
“You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. They put on the gloves and put their hands in the sink. The Queen asks if you’re ready, she piles up the plates and goes to the sink,” Blair said, according to The Guardian.
The paper also reported that Thatcher once donated rubber gloves to the Queen after seeing her wash without them.
Blair also noted that Elizabeth loves drinks — especially a gin and dubonnet — that are potently made like “true rocket fuel,” Blair said. according to the evening norm.
According to Smith, she and Prince Philip had extensive cookouts on the property for years.
“When they’re barbecuing outside, which they love to do on the Balmoral property – it’s a huge estate, the most beautiful grounds – where they literally set up a barbeque. And then the queen does the dishes.”
As for indoor meals, the Queen had “her dinner from a tray watching television,“ So said royal biographer Lady Colin Campbell during the TV show ‘Secrets Of The Royal Kitchen’.
“She likes it. It’s homey and cozy 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’s and her kin’s well-known love for animals extends to Balmoral’s grounds.
Despite the fact that bats are known to “poop everywhere”, Elizabeth II insists on treating them graciously, The sun reported.
“Her Majesty has even pointed it out to her staff so they can catch them with nets,” the report said.
When visiting the Balmoral estate, Prince Charleswho is staying with Camilla in Birkhall has also shown an affinity for the creatures of the terrain, large and small.
“He is completely in love with the red squirrels that live around the estate in Scotland – to the extent that he’s given them names and let them into the house,” said Prince William. according to city and country.
“They come into Birkhall’s house and we keep them chasing each other inside. If I sit still, they will do that around me,” William added. “Sometimes, if I leave my coats on a chair with nuts in the pockets, I see them sticking their tails out, hunting nuts — they’re incredibly special creatures.”
Balmoral – which recently opened to the public for the months when the royal family is away – even has a live “squirrel camera” on its website.