Queen Elizabeth II died in one of her favorite places: her Scottish residence, Balmoral Castle.
Buckingham Palace confirmed the monarch’s death on Thursday afternoon at the historic property that has served as a private retreat for the British royals for more than 150 years.
Balmoral has been in the family since 1845, when Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, purchased the castle and the surrounding 7,000-acre estate, located in Aberdeenshire in the Scottish Highlands. It has long been used by the royal family to entertain friends, hold dances, picnic and go on shooting parties.
It was not just for leisure for Queen Elizabeth, however. She continued to work at Balmoral, reading her diplomatic papers in the famous “red boxes” delivered daily, held audiences with dignitaries and advisors, and undertook some public engagements there.
The Queen traditionally retreated to the home every August. This year, she traveled there from her residence in Windsor at the end of July.
Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Balmoral Castle
She has been joined over the years by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; various other royals and notable guests; and of course, her beloved corgis. When the family is not in residence, the castle is open to the public and it’s even possible to book a stay on the estate, arranged via the website.
The isolated property has been a refuge for the Queen since childhood, when she took part in favorite outdoor activities like salmon fishing and stalking deer. The lifelong equestrian also famously enjoyed horseback riding on the estate, even into her later years.
Those close to her have often recounted her love for the home and the region.
“It’s the wide open spaces. No distractions, no aeroplanes, no noise, no traffic. Just this lovely estate where she can freely roam everywhere,” the late Sir Malcolm Ross, former Comptroller of the Royal Household, told the BBC. “She can relax, with her dogs, just doing what she thought normal people did, and indeed what normal people do.”
Lichfield/Getty Queen Elizabeth
The royal family has released numerous photos of their time at Balmoral over the years. In a portrait (top) taken on the castle grounds in 1960, Queen Elizabeth is pictured with her husband Prince Philip, who died at age 99 in 2021, and three of their children — King Charles III, Princesse Ann and Prince Andrew — with a corgi close at hand.
A few years later in 1972, a casual portrait of the family of six — then including their youngest, Prince Edward — decked out in tartan served as their Christmas card.
King Charles and Princess Diana famously spent time at the estate early in their relationship, and Prince William and Prince Harry visited throughout their childhood, as in the picture below snapped on the grounds with their father.
Tim Graham/Getty Images
On Tuesday, just two days before her death, the Queen appointed the new prime minister of the United Kingdom at Balmoral for the first time in her 70-year reign. In a photo from the meeting, the monarch was all smiles before a crackling fireplace.
Much of the room’s décor visible in the frame remains unchanged from decades ago, likely representative of her reported desire to keep the house as much as possible as it was in Queen Victoria’s time.
Jane Barlow – WPA Pool/Getty Images Queen Elizabeth
In a photo of the Drawing Room from the 1970s, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip sit on a green sofa that looks very similar to the one there still. The artwork on the walls is also unchanged: a portrait of Queen Victoria, Elizabeth’s great-great-grandmother, on horseback.
An even older image, from 1885 shows the same gilded mirror, decorative fireplace mantel and ornate candelabras still seem to be in place.
The Queen’s primary residence is the 775-room Buckingham Palace in the City of Westminster, but she has several others throughout the British Isles. There’s also Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married; Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh; Sandringham Estate, where the royal family celebrates Christmas; and Hillsborough Castle, the Queen’s seat in Northern Ireland.
The Queen’s death comes after a year of various health issues. In October 2021, she stepped out with a walking cane. The same month, she canceled a scheduled trip to Northern Ireland under medical advice from her doctors and spent a night in the hospital. She suffered a sprained back in November and tested positive for COVID-19 in February.
After appointing the new prime minister, Liz Truss, Tuesday, Buckingham Palace announced the following day that the Queen would not preside over a scheduled Privy Council meeting so she could rest.
Following the confirmation of her death, her son King Charles ascended the throne.
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