Queen's Traditional Balmoral Welcome Scaled Back Amid Mobility Problems

Queen Elizabeth II's traditional welcome ceremony held each year when she takes up residence at her Balmoral Scottish castle for the summer has been scaled back in another example of established traditions being altered because of the 96-year-old monarch's advanced age and health issues.

The queen has been in residence on her Scottish estate since late July, where she has been staying at Craigowan Lodge—a small country house built by Queen Victoria—while Balmoral Castle was open to the public.

When the castle closes to the public in August each year, the queen takes up official residence and she receives a steady stream of guests including family members and a traditional visit from the prime minister. The monarch usually stays at Balmoral until the fall, returning in late September or early October.

Queen Elizabeth II Balmoral Castle Welcome
Balmoral on September 20, 2017, and the queen (inset) during the guard of honor welcome at the castle on August 9, 2021. The queen will forgo the traditional guard of honor ceremony at Balmoral Castle, instead opting for a smaller private welcome in the castle grounds, according to reports. Andrew Milligan/WPA Pool/Getty Images/Jane Barlow/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Each year, to mark the queen's moving into the castle, an official guard of honor is formed outside the estate gates from an armed forces regiment. The queen traditionally has reviewed this guard and spoken with the regiment's members in view of the public and media.

This year, however, U.K. newspaper The Times reported that the welcome has been scaled back and will take place in private inside the castle grounds as part of an adaptation of the queen's public appearances being made for her comfort.

The alteration of the traditional Balmoral welcome comes as the monarch has significantly reduced her number of public appearances since experiencing health scares last fall.

Following the COVID lockdowns the queen no longer resides at Buckingham Palace, basing herself at Windsor Castle, from where she receives official visitors and performs light duties.

A new model of operation is also in effect that no longer sees the monarch's official diary published ahead of time. The queen's attendance at a public event is now left unconfirmed until the date in question, depending on how she feels and in consultation with her doctors.

Queen Elizabeth II Balmoral Guard of Honor
Queen Elizabeth II inspects a guard of honor marking her taking up residence at Balmoral Castle on August 9, 2021. This year, the welcome has been scaled back. Jane Barlow/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Despite undertaking a number of engagements this year, including two Platinum Jubilee balcony appearances in London and events during the annual Scotland week in June, the queen continues to suffer from what Buckingham Palace has officially called "episodic mobility problems."

These have caused the royal to miss some important constitutional events, the most prominent of which being the State Opening of Parliament in May, at which she was represented by Prince Charles, who read her official speech, and Prince William in his capacity as a Counselor of State.

Charles and William are taking on increasing shares of royal work. Charles represented his mother at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in July, with William also making an appearance at the event with wife, Kate Middleton, and the couple's daughter, Princess Charlotte.

The royal family's connection with Balmoral dates back to Queen Victoria who, though having the official residence of the monarch in Scotland at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, decided to purchase a country retreat as the highlands reminded Prince Albert of his native Germany.

The couple purchased old Balmoral Castle in 1852 and went about building a completely new residence while expanding the estate to cover 50,000 acres today. The estate is a private property meaning it belongs to the queen outright, not the government or the Crown Estates.

The queen has spent the majority of her summers at Balmoral with her family, often accompanied by a number of her grandchildren as they grew up.

Princes William and Harry at Balmoral
Princes William and Harry with Prince Charles on the Balmoral estate on August 12, 1997. The boys were staying at Balmoral when they learned that Princess Diana had been killed in a Paris car crash. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Princes William and Harry were staying at Balmoral with their grandmother 25 years ago in 1997, when the news that Princess Diana had been killed in a high-speed Paris car crash was broken. William later spoke of this time and his connection to Scotland in a 2021 address to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

"Scotland is the source of some of my happiest memories," he said. "But also, my saddest."

"I was in Balmoral when I was told that my mother had died. Still in shock, I found sanctuary in the service at Crathie Kirk that very morning. And in the dark days of grief that followed, I found comfort and solace in the Scottish outdoors.

"As a result, the connection I feel to Scotland will forever run deep."

The queen is due to return to England briefly during her summer stay at Balmoral to have a final meeting with Boris Johnson as he steps down from his position as prime minister once his successor has been appointed. The monarch is also expected to then meet with the incoming prime minister, depending on her health at the time.

Newsweek approached Buckingham Palace for comment.

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