Who’s on King Charles’ Balmoral Invite List This Summer—and Who Isn’t

Every summer the royals decamp to Balmoral in Scotland for their vacation, and the guest list is a reliable measure of who’s in and who’s out in the royal court.Published Jul. 05, 2024 4:48AM EDT Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty ImagesBalmoral Castle, nestled in the Scottish Highlands, is one of the British royal family’s most beloved

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Every summer the royals decamp to Balmoral in Scotland for their vacation, and the guest list is a reliable measure of who’s in and who’s out in the royal court.

Tom Sykes

King Charles and Balmoral Castle

Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

Balmoral Castle, nestled in the Scottish Highlands, is one of the British royal family’s most beloved retreats.

Since the time of Queen Victoria, who famously lived there for the final decades of her life while she grieved her beloved Albert, it has echoed—during summer at least—to the sound of the extended royal family gathering for their vacay.

This summer, however, a very different noise will emanate from its hallowed halls: the oohs and aahs of the—shudder!—common man as, for the first time ever, guided tours for the great unwashed are taking place within the castle.

The tours began this week and will continue to Aug. 4—and it seems unlikely King Charles will be hosting a big summer get-together for the royal family after the tourists are kicked out.

Charles’ spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment but a friend of the king told The Daily Beast that Charles “vastly prefers” his own private home on the Balmoral estate, Birkhall, as opposed to Balmoral Castle itself.

The friend said: “Charles is much more comfortable in Birkhall than Balmoral. He vastly prefers it, and the fact that he didn’t need or want to be [in the castle] for the whole summer was certainly part of the reason why he decided to choose this year to open it up for the first time. Balmoral is gigantic, verging on institutional, and hosting everyone there is not relaxing, whereas Birkhall is much more homely and cozy, and much smaller.

“He is still fighting cancer, so I think the idea of having all the family to stay in a massive party the way the queen [Elizabeth] used to is on hold for this year at least.

“That said, it is blatantly obvious that the tours end in August so as not to interfere with the grouse season which starts on 12th August. Balmoral is in the middle of two enormous grouse moors.”

Using a nickname for the Aug. 12 shooting season start, the friend added: “ I’m sure William and Catherine will want to go up with some friends for the Glorious Twelfth, and I suspect Andrew would like to go for a few days shooting as well. Charles has seemed happy to allow Andrew his family days at the royal shoots and I am sure that will continue.”

If Andrew gets the invite, it seems likely that his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson and children Beatrice and Eugenie would be asked as well. Sarah has been deliberately invited to several family events by Charles since the death of Queen Elizabeth (and indeed had a standing invite to Balmoral under the late queen.)

William would almost certainly decline to be at Balmoral at the same time as the Yorks, likely preferring a sojourn with Prince Edward and Sophie and their children, James and Louise, or with Princess Anne (her health, post-mystery horse-related head injury, permitting) and her clan.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle likely won’t be going this year, however. A source close to King Charles is said to have dismissed with a “resounding snort” a question about whether Harry and his children could be invited there this summer.

William likes his privacy but he knows better than to pick a fight with his dad. Charles has always been an advocate of opening all these places up.

Friend of Prince William

Intriguingly, a report in the London Sunday Times last weekend hinted that William had been less enthusiastic about the project to open up Balmoral to the paying public than his father, with friends of the prince telling the paper that “William did not instantly warm to Charles’s vision of the public wandering through the rooms that his children, George, Charlotte and Louis, have the run of each summer,” but that the king had the final say.

A friend of William’s told The Daily Beast: “William likes his privacy but he knows better than to pick a fight with his dad. Charles has always been an advocate of opening all these places up.”

It will certainly be a momentous change from the days when Queen Elizabeth II spent several months at the castle each summer in great privacy, following in the tradition set by her father, George VI, who actually had to buy the property off his brother, Edward VIII, when he abdicated as the estate was technically the ex-king’s private property.

The history of Balmoral as a royal residence dates back to 1852 when Prince Albert and Queen Victoria purchased the estate from the Farquharson family, who had built a house there.

Albert promptly commissioned the demolition of an existing house on the site, and Balmoral Castle was completed in 1856, designed by the Aberdeen architect William Smith in a Scottish Baronial style.

The property has become a convenient shorthand for Victoria and Albert’s love for Scotland, with Victoria describing it as her “dear paradise in the Highlands.”

Princess Diana, left, and Prince Charles, on their honeymoon in Balmoral by the River Dee, August 1981.

Princess Diana, left, and Prince Charles, on their honeymoon in Balmoral by the River Dee, August 1981.

Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

She lived there almost exclusively after Albert’s death in 1861 until her own death forty years later.

Not all royals, of course, have shared Victoria’s affection for Balmoral. None loathed it more than Princess Diana, who spent several summers there, found the strict routines and isolation challenging, and threw herself down the castle’s grand stairs in a suicide attempt in 1982.

Harry gave a vivid description of Balmoral in his memoir, Spare, describing it as “simply paradise.”

Harry and William were also at Balmoral, however, on one of the worst days of their lives, when they received the news of their mother’s tragic death.

In his memoir, Harry recalls being woken by his father on the morning of August 31, 1997, who informed him of the accident and the fact that his mother had not survived. He remembered that his father’s words were: “She didn’t make it.”

William has also spoken about that time, sharing how he felt “completely numb, disorientated, and dizzy” upon hearing the news.

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