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On September 8, the British royal family announced Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96. During her 70 year-long reign, she made history as being the longest British monarch to sit on the royal throne.
While the Royals are famous for living in various castles throughout London (particularly Buckingham Palace), the monarchy has multiple residences throughout the U.K. One of these homes is Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where the Queen died and often spent several weeks vacationing there during the summer. The country home is not just known amongst royalty, though. It is also recognized by high-level English politicians, who have described the location as being more than just a centuries-old castle.
"[Balmoral Castle is] a vivid combination of the intriguing, the surreal and the utterly freaky," former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair has said about the estate, per The Guardian in September 2016.
The story of Balmoral Castle started in 1852, when Queen Victoria fell in love with the Scottish Highlands — and a castle which had reportedly been built in 1390. She adored it so much, her husband Prince Albert privately bought it to add to their growing collection of estates.
Since then, Balmoral Castle has become a beloved place for the royal family to travel to during the summers. According to outlets, the estate is 50,000 acres and enables everyone to have their own private abode to reside in, like King Charles' love for Birkhall, and Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip spending time in Craigown Lodge.
But it isn't just the adults who love being there — the grandchildren enjoy spending time with their grandparents there, too. Prince William and Kate Middleton have spent school vacations at Balmoral with their children: George, Charlotte and Louis. Meanwhile, Princess Eugenie and husband Jack Brooksbank visited the property with their son August for his first vacation.
"It’s the most beautiful place on earth," Princess Eugenie said, per Hello!. "I think Granny is the most happy there. I think she really, really loves the Highlands."
Despite the air of peace Balmoral Castle brings to the family, it was also home to pivotal moments in modern British history. King Charles and Princess Diana stayed in the estate for their 1981 honeymoon. Prince William and Prince Harry were also there when they learned about the death of their mother in 1997. But what continuously draws them back there? It is a place they are allowed to relax and not play the celebrity role.
In 1972, former royal photographer Lord Lichfield described their life in Scotland as one where "lunch is always outdoors and they are outside every day going on expeditions." To further back up the claim, former Prime Minister Tony Blair even disclosed that Queen Elizabeth II liked to wash the dishes after dinner herself.
"You think I’m joking, but I’m not,” he once noted in his autobiography A Journey: My Political Life. “They put the gloves on and stick their hands in the sink. The Queen asks if you’ve finished, she stacks the plates up and goes off to the sink."
While this is wonderful to read about, it doesn't explain what caused Queen Elizabeth II to head to Balmoral Castle before her death. While she had been going through health problems since late last year, and even canceled a few public appearances in the process BBC reported she moved to the Scottish estate she loved because it made her "feel comfortable" before she died with family members at her side.
"The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon," the monarchy wrote on Twitter. "The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow."
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