Balmoral Castle

Below is a detailed article on Balmoral Castle, a magnificent castle in Scotland that has many associations with the royal family in the UK and royalty in Scotland before that. It is owned by the House of Windsor today and is famous for being the royal residence at Scotland even today.

History of the Balmoral Castle

Before the Royal Acquisition by Prince Albert Consort

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An image of the Balmoral Castle

The King of Scots – King Robert II, owned a hunting ground where the castle was built. The castle was built in 1390 by Sir William Drummond. Later it was bought on rent by the 1st Earl of Huntly – Alexander Gordon. His family also built a tower house in the castle.

The estate kept passing on until the 16th century when the Black Colonel – John Farquharson held it in possession. During the rebellions of the rise of the Jacobites the castle was still in their possession. This was also called the War of the British successions.

Later the estate was passed on to the  Farquharsons of Auchendryne which is present-day Braemar, a village in Aberdeenshire. Then during the end of the 17th century, the estate was bought on lease by James Duff. He was the second Earl of Fife and a member of the Scottish Parliament.

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A sketch of Sir Robert Gordon from the 16th century

Finally, in 1830, it was passed to Sir Robert Gordon who made many constructional and architectural changes in the castle. He added the elements of baronial style along the halls and the ceilings that were designed and executed by John Smith – a famous Scottish architect of the time especially known for his granite based architecture.

The Royal Acquisition by Prince Albert Consort

After two years of marriage, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, her husband went to Scotland in the year 1842. Queen Victoria was highly impressed by the culture in Scotland and decided to promote monarchy in the north as well. Prince Albert was also convinced by this idea. He enjoyed visiting Scotland as the highlands and the serenity reminded him of his hometown in Germany.

After the death of Sir Robert Gordon in 1847, the lease was diminished and the ownership of the castle fell back into the hands of Lord Aberdeen. The following year the Lord of Aberdeen, had Prince Albert acquire a certain part of the lease. Queen Victoria along with Prince Albert paid a visit in the same year and found the place to be small yet comfortable and pretty.

Later architects – John Smith and William Smith, his son redesigned the place and added cabinets, various rooms, dungeons, gardens and woodlands. In June 1852, after the Great Exhibition of 1851, Prince Albert purchased the full castle in 32000 pounds and he was given complete possession in Autumn 1852.

At the same time, beautiful pyramid-like structures overlooking the castle were built on the hills that were a symbol of representations of the various events in the royal family life. These structures were called Purchase Cairn.

Expansion of the Balmoral Castle

Due to Queen Victoria and Prince Alberts increasing family members there was a need for additional staff and cabinet ministers and spaces for these officials. The current structure was not sufficient to accommodate the royal public. Therefore, Prince Albert sat down with William Smith, the architect and took a keen interest in the expansion and considered fine details such as windows and turrets.

The construction for the expansion of the palace began in 1853, immediately after the place was bought without any delay. A 100 yards site was dedicated to the expansion of the castle. Queen Victoria herself laid the foundation stone in September 1853. It took 2 years to build the royal apartments and to occupy them. The tower came to completion around the time of the Crimean War.

A new bridge across River Dee was constructed in 1857, linking the Crathie and the Balmoral.

Construction and Design in the Balmoral Castle

The construction material used was granite which was a speciality of the architect William Smith. A long tower that is 80 foot long and covered with a turret is located toward the south-east of the castle. The architectural style of the castle is typically Scottish and Baronial and interior designs were made by William Burn in the 1850s. Due to Prince Alberts German influence, an orderly pattern in the designs can be noticed.

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Interior of the Balmoral Castle – the Victorian Ballroom

The architectural style was mainly Scottish and this adoption led to the promotion of the highland culture in the monarchy and added more of a British dimension throughout the empire.

Life of Victoria and Albert at the Balmoral Castle

The castle influenced Victorian life in Scotland, their presence influenced the people and had a direct effect on their life as well. They took long 4 -5 hour long walks in the castle and relaxed from the royalty and lived more like a common rich family in the UK.

Many artists were hired in-house at the Balmoral Castle like William Henry Fisk and Carl Haag. There was also a massive library constructed and the staff was increasing in number day after day.

A variety of species of plants and weeds were planted across the massive grounds of the castle even today. Special gardeners were hired for the purpose and a huge sum of money was spent in the maintenance of the castle grounds.

Prince Albert took a keen interest in the maintenance and constant beautification of the castle. He also built roads and pathways wherever necessary.

After the untimely death of her husband, Queen Victoria spent months at the Balmoral Castle. She also made some alterations to the castle wherever necessary like mountain paths and the structuring of new monuments and figures. She maintained a close friendship with John Brown, a Scottish man who helped her during her time of mourning for the Prince Albert Consort.

Before her death, she visited Balmoral and spent three peaceful months at the castle.

Balmoral Castle today

The Balmoral Castle to this day remains a holiday home to the British royal family. Subsequent visits are made by them during the autumn. George V made some improvements in the castle during the early 1900s. Prince Philip Consort, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II made some changes in the gardens of the Balmoral and visits the holiday home quite often.

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Balmoral Castle Scottish turrets

A staff for maintenance and housekeeping still exists here as it is frequently visited by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip and their children today.

The castle is maintained and basically owned by the Trustees and managed under Deeds of appointment and nomination.

The castle is a symbol of the English- Scottish heritage not only from but before the Victorian times, it is a masterpiece of architecture and high detailing by a couple of the finest architects of the generations that the castle was being structured.

It is also a symbolic representation of the Prince Albert Consort who was constantly involved in building and modelling the castle and making it the world profound heritage as it is today.

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