When is a castle not a castle? Well, it depends on its purpose.
Take the Queen’s royal residences, of which she has a few. Her official ones include Buckingham Palace, Holyrood Palace and Windsor castle. The latter is definitely a castle – started in the 11th century by William the Conquer and built up over a long period, it still possesses a formidable appearance even though much of it has been remodelled in later centuries.
Then there are the Queen’s private residences that include Sandringham and Balmoral castle. Private means they’re not crown property and belong to the royal family outright.
Balmoral is in Scotland, far away from London, and each autumn the Queen retreats there for two months. Unlike Windsor, which has a royal history of centuries, Balmoral was added to the residence list in the 19th century.
The original castle was a tower house, but due to its construction it was considered a castle. Built in the 15th century and home to various occupants it was leased until 1848 when Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort took a fancy to owning it. He took over the lease, which included the furniture and staff, without actually viewing the property. When Queen Victoria visited for the first time, she found the castle a bit wee in size. So even though it had a makeover in the 1830s, it wasn’t good enough for the royal couple. They made a few additions, including a pre-fab iron building to act as a temporary ballroom, but once the sale of the house was completed in 1852, and with a growing family, a larger house was commissioned. Completed in 1856, this ‘castle’ is what visitors see these days.
Balmoral is an example of Scottish Baronial architecture. Meaning it mixes up medieval castles and French renaissance châteaux features. It’s all part of the great 19th century Gothic revival. Balmoral has a German twist to it, too and that’s probably down to Albert’s rather pedantic approach to everything. Victoria adopted Scotland as her new home, describing Balmoral as “her dear paradise in the Highlands.” She decorated the rooms with tartan… everywhere.
As for the old castle – demolished. So what is standing isn’t really a castle, is it? I mean, there’s nothing defensive about it; it’s purely a romantic illusion of a castle.
Whatever, it’s still a popular home for Queens.