( Originally Published 1902 )
AS children were born to her, and as the responsibilities of office increased, Queen Victoria felt the need of a country home, removed from the press and the noise of the busy throng, a home where she might take off her crown and unbend and be a simple wife and mother. She wanted to buy an estate on Loch Laggan, but Prince Albert persuaded her to wait and look at Balmoral with him. She was charmed with the Highlands and the castle, and Albert bought the estate from Lord Aberdeen for £31,500, and presented it to her. Of it he writes : " We have withdrawn for a short time into a complete mountain solitude, where one rarely sees a human face, where the snow now in September covers the mountain tops, and the wild deer come creeping stealthily around the house. I, naughty man, have been creeping stealthily after the harmless stags, and to-day I shot two red deer. The castle is of granite, with numerous small turrets, and is situated on a rising ground, surrounded by birch-wood and close to the river Dee. The air is glorious and clear, but icy cold." The Queen afterwards bought much adjoining property, and the estate now includes forty thousand acres, six miles of which are along the banks of the Dee. She built several cottages on the grounds, and there is now quite a village near the palace.
At this home in the Highlands of Scotland, the Queen spent as much time as possible while Albert lived, and after he died, because she preferred solitude and because it was a gift from him to her and because of the precious memories of a perfect married life that were associated with it. It lengthened her life and multiplied her usefulness. She fed soul and body on the pure atmosphere, the sublime mountain, the beautiful vale, the lovely landscape, the winding stream, the purple heather, the sacred communion with her family, love for the poor and the simple worship of Almighty God. Balmoral was the expression of everything that was most beautiful in the character of the Queen and most potential in her reign. A few hours each day she devoted to the affairs of State, but much of the time was spent in recreation and rest in the bosom of her family and on the breast of her Redeemer. Though at ease in the highest social function, and exact in her requirements of Court etiquette, and acquainted as almost no one with the affairs of this busy world, she was a simple child of nature from the time she took the sceptre, a girl of eighteen, till death removed it from her fingers. Almost all great persons have had their places of solitude and hours for reflection, their contact with nature and communion with self. A proper proportion of society and solitude, of work and of rest, is necessary for the development of a complete character.