Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Building of the Week: Balmoral Castle, Scotland

The Old Castle at Balmoral, 1853
The Royal Collection
The private summer residence of the Royal Family, the estate at Balmoral covers an area of over sixty-four thousand acres in the Royal Deeside in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The estate originally belonged to King Robert II who kept a hunting lodge on the property. In 1390, Sir William Drummond built the original castle on the site. The land would change hands three more times before the Nineteenth Century. In the 1840’s, the estate was owned by the Second Earl of Fife who leased the house and lands to wealthy patrons in search of a peaceful place to hunt and rejuvenate themselves. In 1848, the castle and lands were leased to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who both fell in love with the beauty of the grounds and the elegant, but comfortable, castle. The queen and her husband petitioned for ownership of the property and achieved their goal in 1852.

The New Castle at Balmoral, 1856
The Royal Collection
In 1853, the corner stone for a new castle at Balmoral was set into the ground. Beneath the stone, Queen Victoria ordered that a letter in her own hand and coins of the realm (encased in glass) be set beneath the stone. While Victoria and Albert loved the original castle, they realized that it was too small and too old to comfortably house their growing family and rapidly enlarging staff. Prince Albert worked closely with the architects and designers of the new castle to ensure that it not only met their immediate needs, but also blended with the design of the original structure as well as the pristine landscape.

Balmoral, 1860
The Royal Collection
Balmoral has since remained in the Royal Family and, like Sandringham House, is privately owned as opposed to being a state residence. The estate has been the favorite spot of many a royal. Queen Elizabeth II and her family are particularly fond of the spot and spend as much time as they can there.

Over time, the size of the estate has grown incredibly. In 1878, Queen Victoria rescued a one thousand acre stretch of forest by purchasing it before it could be destroyed by timber merchants. The forest, known as Ballochbuie, was officially added to the estate at Balmoral. Later, an additional two thousand acres were added as a safe haven for red deer.

Queen Elizabeth II and her Children
at Balmoral, 1952
Balmoral is still a working estate, and while the staff has been considerably reduced lately, the Royal Family employs up to fifty full-time staffers throughout the year. Nearly one hundred thousand people visit Balmoral each year—wishing to tour the land and see its natural beauty first-hand. The tourist trade is quite a boon to the surrounding areas—producing upwards of four thousand jobs for local workers each year.

The site of many a historic occasion, Balmoral has seen its share of Royal triumph and tragedy. There, the coronation activities of King George IV were carried out. Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain was born there. Most recently, it was at Balmoral where the Royal Family received word that Diana, Princess of Wales, had been killed in an automobile accident.

Princes William, Charles and Harry at Balmoral
The Royal Collection
The Duke of Edinburgh, husband to Queen Elizabeth II, plays a large part in overseeing the workings of Balmoral and has taken a keen interest in preserving the trees and wildlife on the estate. As the land continues to be governed by its royal owners, we can be sure that it will continue to be one small stretch of untouched beauty for centuries to come.

1 comment:

Hotel Dunkeld said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.