|NGR||NO 2550 9495|
|Lon. & Lat.||57.039433,-3.227216|
|Parish||Crathie and Braemar|
|Nearby Castles||Abergeldie, Birkhall, Knock|
The Balmoral Estate began as a home built by Sir William Drummond in 1390. The estate was formerly owned by King Robert II (1316–1390), who had a hunting lodge in the area. After Drummond, the estate was sold to Alexander Gordon, the 3rd Earl of Huntly, in the 15th century. The estate remained in the family's hands until it was sold in 1662 to the Farquharsons of Invery, who sold the estate in 1798 to the 2nd Earl of Fife. The estate formed part of the coronation activities of King George IV in 1822.
Balmoral is today best known as a royal residence, the summer retreat of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. The history as a royal residence dates back to 1848, when the house was rented to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert by the trustees of Sir Robert Gordon (who had obtained a long-term lease of the castle in 1830 and died in 1847). They very much enjoyed their stay in the house, and they paid just over £30,000 for full ownership in 1852. Prince Albert immediately started making plans with William Smith to extend the existing 15th century castle, and make a "new" and bigger castle fit for the royal family. Numerous additions had been made by Sir Robert Gordon between 1830 and 1852 when all the old buildings were pulled down. No trace of the original Balmoral Castle exists. In the lawn of the present castle, a marble stone is inscribed, 'This stone marks the position of the front entrance door (facing the south) of old Balmoral Castle taken down in 1855'.
In 1856 the building was completed, it now being a full and working estate with around 100 buildings surrounding the castle. The castle, not including its land and estate, is valued at around £160 million.
Along with Sandringham House, Balmoral is the private property of the British royal family and not part of the royal estate. Their succession became an issue in 1936, when Edward VIII abdicated as king. Being legacies Edward had inherited from his father, George V, the estates did not automatically pass to his younger brother George VI on abdication. George had to explicitly purchase Balmoral and Sandringham from Edward so that they could remain private retreats for the monarch's family.
Today, the Balmoral Estate is still in working order, occupying over 200 km² of land. The Royal Family employs around 50 full-time and 50–100 part-time staff to maintain the estate and look after the animals. The part-time staff are used particularly when the Queen makes her annual visit.
There has been some speculation that Balmoral Castle may have been earmarked as a royal refuge in the event of nuclear war. In the 1960's, war plans apparently envisaged evacuating the Sovereign to the Royal Yacht Britannia, but this might not have been practical, and a land-based refuge would have been desirable. It would appear that, contrary to persistent rumour, there were no plans for the Sovereign to join the Prime Minister at the Corsham bunker complex known variously as Hawthorn, Subterfuge, Site 3, Burlington, or Turnstile. Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle would both have been too vulnerable, the former as being in the heart of London — a major target in its own right — and Windsor because of its proximity to Heathrow Airport.
The Queen was in residence at Balmoral at the time of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. Her initial decision not to return to London or to mourn more publicly was much criticized at the time.