Elizabeth leaves Highlands for last time

LONDON – When the hearse carrying the body of Queen Elizabeth II pulled out of the gates of Balmoral Castle on Sunday, it marked the monarch’s final departure from a personal sanctuary where she could shed the straitjacket of protocol and ceremony for a few weeks each year.

The sprawling estate in the Scottish Highlands west of Aberdeen was a place where Elizabeth rode her beloved horses, picnicked and pushed her children around the grounds on tricycles and carriages, casting aside palace formality of Buckingham.

“When… she walks through those (Balmoral) doors, I believe the royal part of her mostly stays outside,” said Reverend David Barr, of Glenmuick Church in nearby Ballater. “And as she comes in, she was able to be a wife, a loving wife, a loving mother, a loving grandmother, and then later a loving great-grandmother – and an aunt – and be normal.”

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It was a transformation that happened every summer, when the royal family spent much of August and September at the estate which has been a royal haven since 1852, when Prince Albert bought it for his wife, Queen Victoria.

Balmoral is the family’s “private wilderness country”, where a fleet of immaculate Land Rovers picked up guests each morning during hunting and stalking season, Jonathan Dimbleby wrote in his 1994 biography of Prince Charles, who became the King Charles III on the death of his mother.

But there were also other attractions.

“In the stables the Queen’s horses were ready again, coats trimmed, saddles and bridles soaped and stirrups polished,” Dimbleby wrote. “Servants, trained in stealth, only appeared when needed, aware that being seen or heard aimlessly would amount to intruding.”

At Balmoral, a woman most remembered for wearing dresses and crowns or grandma’s dresses and wide-brimmed hats could tie a scarf around her head, snuggle up in a warm jacket and pull on a pair of boots to explore an area covered with heather and pine forests and populated by deer, bees and butterflies.

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This sense of informality could bring out the mischievous side of the queen.

A former royal protection officer, Richard Griffin, remembers accompanying the Queen on a picnic when they met two American backpackers. Tourists did not recognize Elizabeth and asked how long she had been visiting the area. When she replied “over 80”, they asked her if she had ever met the Queen.

“As fast as a flash she goes, ‘Well I haven’t, but Dickie here meets her regularly,'” Griffin told Sky News earlier this year at events marking 70 years. of the monarch on the throne.

One of the hikers then turned to Griffin and asked what the queen looked like. He replied, “She can be very cantankerous at times, but she has a good sense of humor.”

After posing for a photo with the Queen, the unsuspecting hikers said goodbye and continued on their hike.

“And then Her Majesty said to me, ‘I wish I was a fly on the wall when he shows these photos to friends in America. I hope someone will tell him who I am,” Griffin recalled.

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The Queen’s love of Balmoral underscored the royal family’s close ties to Scotland, which began with her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who started the royal tradition of wearing tartan.

In the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, the Queen reportedly hoped for a ‘no’ vote, although she was unable to publicly express her views. Former Prime Minister David Cameron later confirmed this, recounting how her husband, the late Prince Philip, sought to keep the peace at Balmoral by trying to hide the morning papers the day a poll was published suggesting that Scots could vote to leave UK

“But, of course, when she got the result, he said she was purring like a cat of satisfaction when she heard the UK was going to stay united,” royal historian Robert Lacey told the UK on Friday. BBC.

But at its heart, Balmoral was a family home for the Queen.

Temporarily released from state affairs, Elizabeth and Philip spent more time with their children at Balmoral.

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Home movies shared with the BBC for a documentary on the Queen’s 90th birthday showed the couple playing with Charles and his sister, Anne, on the lawn outside Balmoral Castle, with Philip racing down a grassy slope on a small cart red before tipping over, his kilt flying in the breeze.

Charles later played table tennis and football in the yard and was even allowed to cycle to the village shop alone, albeit with a policeman behind him, Dimbleby wrote.

It is “very significant” that the Queen died in Scotland, Lacey told The Associated Press.

“Because apart from her love for this particular country, it was the countryside, the way it connected her with nature,” he said.

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For more AP coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the British Royal Family: https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii

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