Ruth and I had to go to St. Louis unexpectedly for a funeral this past week. After a 4 day whirlwind trip, we’re back and I’m happy to be posting again and very appreciative of your ongoing support.
My current Home Screen is a photo of Queen Elizabeth II on the day that Ruth had her encounter with royalty. It makes Ruth smile ever time she uses my phone, and it reminds us of our trip to Scotland.
Nine days after we saw The Queen at Windemere, we were on our way to Aberdeen and near Balmoral Castle. A few miles west of the town of Ballater, Balmoral, which really isn’t a castle, is in the part of Scotland with the worst winter weather. Over 50,000 acres of heathered hills and woodland with the salmon-rich River Dee flowing through, Balmoral, the Highland home of the Royal Family, is, in fact, a hunting lodge that has come to resemble a castle. It has been in the family ever since Queen Victoria bought it more than 150 years ago.
From November to March, weather permitting, maintenance work is done when it’s not unusual for the temperature to remain below zero for several days with up to 2 feet of snow on the ground. The estate has over 80 miles of road and track to clear. From April to the end of July, Balmoral is open to the public, and the 70,000 or so people like us who show up don’t actually get to see much. The Queen and her entourage arrives around the beginning of August after the gift and coffee shops have been dismantled. The residence is overseen by about 1,200 staff under the Manager of the Household. I was surprised to learn that Elizabeth usually stays for 3 months and leaves some time in October. Signs assure subjects that this remains working time for her.
I found visiting Balmoral for a couple of hours to be a 4 Compass experience. We were restricted to the gardens and some exhibitions in the stables and Ballroom, our only interior access. The Rose Garden was ablaze with thousands of blooming pink Betty Priors. This variety flowers at the end of July, perfectly timed to the royal arrival. The staff told me that whatever is selected for exhibition in The Ballroom is from the residence, and everything is carefully returned to its place before the Queen shows up. Some of the royal possessions repeat each year, but there is always some new stuff out. We saw family portraits by Cecil Beaton, some of the Queen’s Norman Hartnell gowns, 8 or so paintings of Queen Victoria’s pets by Edwin Landseer, the world’s best known dog painter, some photos from way, way back in The Queen’s reign of the Balmoral residence that can accommodate about 40 family members and guests, some of Prince Albert’s accessories, like a spiffy sporran, etc. I rather enjoyed seeing the Queen’s Christmas cards since 1952. Each year she sends out about 600.