It was in Balmoral Castle that the husband and wife most loved to
be with their children. Here they could lead a simple life free from
all restraints, "small house, small rooms, small establishment. . . .
There are no soldiers, and the whole guard of the Sovereign consists
of a single policeman, who walks about the grounds to keep off
impertinent intruders and improper characters. . . . The Prince
shoots every morning,
returns to luncheon, and then they walk or
drive. The Queen is running in and out of the house all day long,
and often goes about alone, walks into the cottages, and chats with
the old women."
The Queen loved her life here even more than the Prince, and every
year she yearned for it more and more. "It is not alone the pure air,
the quiet and beautiful scenery, which makes it so delightful," she
wrote; "it is the atmosphere of loving affection, and the hearty
attachment of the people around Balmoral which warms the heart and
does one good."
It was during the year 1848 that the royal couple paid their first
visit to Balmoral. The Queen had long wished to possess a home of
her own in the Highlands where her husband could indulge in some
outdoor sport, and where they both could enjoy a brief rest, from
time to time, from the anxiety and care of State affairs.
Their life there during the years 1848-61 is described by the Queen
in her diary, Leaves from the Journal of our Life in the Highlands.
It was first published after the Prince's death and was dedicated
to him in the words: "To the dear memory of him who made the life
of the writer bright and happy, these simple records are lovingly
and gratefully inscribed."
The first impressions were very favourable: "It is a pretty little
castle in the old Scottish style. There is a picturesque tower and
garden in front, with a high wooded hill; at the back there is wood
down to the Dee; and the hills rise all around."
Their household was, naturally, a small one, consisting of the
Queen's Maid of Honour, the Prince's valet, a cook, a footman, and
two maids. Among the outdoor attendants was John Brown, who in 1858
was attached to the Queen as one of her regular attendants everywhere
in the Highlands, and remained in her service until his death. "He
has all the independence and elevated feelings peculiar to the
Highland race, and is singularly straightforward, simple-minded,
kind-hearted and disinterested; always ready to oblige; and of a
discretion rarely to be met with."
The old castle soon proved to be too small for the family, and in
September 1853 the foundation-stone of a new house was laid. After
the ceremony the workmen were entertained at dinner, which was
followed by Highland games and dancing in the ballroom.
Two years later they entered the new castle, which the Queen
described as "charming; the rooms delightful; the furniture, papers,
The Prince was untiring in planning improvements, and in 1856 the
Queen wrote: "Every year my heart becomes more fixed in this dear
Paradise, and so much more so now, that all has become my dearest
Albert's own creation, own work, own building, own laying out as
at Osborne; and his great taste, and the impress of his dear hand,
have been stamped everywhere. He was very busy today, settling and
arranging many things for next year."
Visits to the cottages of the old people on the estate and in the
neighbourhood were a constant source of delight and pleasure to the
Queen, and often when the Prince was away for the day shooting, she
would pay a round of calls, taking with her little presents. The old
ladies especially loved a talk with their Queen. "The affection of
these good people, who are so hearty and so happy to see you, taking
interest in everything, is very touching and gratifying," she
remarked upon them. "We were always in the habit of conversing with
the Highlanders--with whom one comes so much in contact in the
Highlands. The Prince highly appreciated the good breeding,
simplicity, and intelligence, which make it so pleasant, and even
instructive to talk to them."
In September 1855, soon after moving into the new castle, the news
arrived of the fall of Sebastopol, and this was taken as an omen of
good luck. The Prince and his suite sallied forth, followed by all
the population, to the cairn above Balmoral, and here, amid general
cheering, a large bonfire was lit. The pipes played wildly, the
people danced and shouted, guns and squibs were fired off, and it
was not until close upon midnight that the festivities came to an
During the same month the Princess Royal became engaged to Prince
Frederick William of Prussia, who was then visiting Balmoral. Acting
on the Queen's advice, Prince Frederick did not postpone his good
fortune until a later date, as he had at first intended, but during
a ride up Craig-na-Ban, he picked a piece of white heather (the emblem
of 'good luck') and offered it to the young Princess, and this gave
him an opportunity of declaring his love.
These extracts, printed from the Queen's Journals, were intended at
first for presentation only to members of the Royal Family and Her
Majesty's intimate friends, especially to those who had accompanied
her during her tours. It was, however, suggested to the Queen that
her people would take even as keen an interest in these simple records
of family life, especially as they had already shown sincere and
ready sympathy with her personal joys and sorrows.
"The book," its editor says, "is mainly confined to the natural
expressions of a mind rejoicing in the beauties of nature, and
throwing itself, with a delight rendered keener by the rarity of its
opportunities, into the enjoyment of a life removed, for the moment,
from the pressure of public cares."
It is of particular interest because here the Queen records from day
to day her thoughts and her impressions in the simplest language;
here she can be seen less as a queen than as a wife and mother. Her
interest in her whole household and in all those immediately around
her is evident on almost every page. To quote again: "She is, indeed,
the Mother of her People, taking the deepest interest in all that
concerns them, without respect of persons, from the highest to the
As a picture of the Royal Court in those days this is exceedingly
valuable, for it shows what an example the Queen and her husband were
setting to the whole nation in the simple life they led in their
That the old people especially loved her can be seen from the
greetings and blessings she received in the cottages she used to
visit. "May the Lord attend ye with mirth and with joy; may He ever
be with ye in this world, and when ye leave it."
The Queen was never weary of the beauties of the Highlands, and quotes
the following lines from a poem by Arthur Hugh Clough to describe
'God's glorious works':
The gorgeous bright October,
Then when brackens are changed, and heather blooms are faded,
And amid russet of heather and fern, green trees are bonnie;
Alders are green, and oaks; the rowan scarlet and yellow;
One great glory of broad gold pieces appears the aspen,
And the jewels of gold that were hung in the hair of the birch tree;
Pendulous, here and there, her coronet, necklace, and earrings,
Cover her now, o'er and o'er; she is weary and scatters them from
In the year 1883 the Queen published More Leaves from the Journal,
and dedicated it "To my loyal Highlanders, and especially to the
memory of my devoted personal attendant and faithful friend, John
Brown." They are records of her life in Scotland during the years
1862 to 1882.
In the August of 1862 a huge cairn, thirty-five feet high, was erected
to the memory of the Prince Consort. It was set on the summit of Craig
Lowrigan, where it could be seen all down the valley.
A short extract will serve as a specimen of the Queen's style of
"At a quarter to twelve I drove off with Louise and Leopold in the
waggonette up to near the 'Bush' (the residence of William Brown,
the farmer) to see them 'juice the sheep.' This is a practice pursued
all over the Highlands before the sheep are sent down to the low
country for the winter. It is done to preserve the wool. Not far from
the burnside, where there are a few hillocks, was a pen in which the
sheep were placed, and then, just outside it, a large sort of trough
filled with liquid tobacco and soap, and into this the sheep were
dipped one after the other; one man took the sheep one by one out
of the pen and turned them on their backs; and then William and he,
holding them by their legs, dipped them well in, after which they
were let into another pen into which this trough opened, and here
they had to remain to dry. To the left, a little lower down, was a
cauldron boiling over a fire and containing the tobacco with water
and soap; this was then emptied into a tub, from which it was
transferred into the trough. A very rosy-faced lassie, with a plaid
over her head, was superintending this part of the work, and helped
to fetch the water from the burn, while children and many collie dogs
were grouped about, and several men and shepherds were helping. It
was a very curious and picturesque sight."