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Queen Elizabeth Has Been Known to Catch Bats in a Butterfly Net at Balmoral Castle

·3 min read

There have been numerous fascinating revelations from Tina Brown's The Palace Papers, but none quite as delightful as Brown's description of Queen Elizabeth at Balmoral.

"The Queen's happy place has always been Balmoral," Brown writes. The castle feels like a "piece of Bavaria dropped into a Scottish forest," and Queen Elizabeth has spent three months there every year since 1926. Balmoral, Brown describes, is where "the monarch can exhale and know she is at last free of irksome royal engagements to be her true self."

Photo credit: Bettmann - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bettmann - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bettmann - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bettmann - Getty Images

In a lovely anecdote, Brown describes the Queen spending time at her favorite home: "The Queen has sometimes been sighted wielding a butterfly net trying to catch the bats that lurk in the upper reaches of the castle."

There are nine species of bats that live in Scotland, according to the Bat Conservation Trust, and the bats the Queen is chasing down is likely the soprano pipistrelle bat.

"The soprano pipistrelle is Scotland's most common bat and the one you are most likely to have sharing your house," the Trust explains. "On a warm summer's night look out for them with their characteristically erratic flight, as they are busily feeding on small insects in our gardens and parks." (Or perhaps look out for them in castles!)

The bats are not new, and have lived at Balmoral for decades. "The ballroom of the large Aberdeenshire estate is believed to be home to a colony of pipistrelle bats that nest in the rafters," the Sun wrote in 2019, "and Her Majesty has even pointed them out to her staff so they can catch them with nets."

Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images

As of at least 2018, the bats were still thriving. "When I checked last summer there were bats still there," the Sun's royal editor Adam Helliker said. "They can’t get rid of them. Lots of the servants want to get rid of them as they defecate all over the place."

Sadly, he also revealed that perhaps the Queen's bat hunting days have passed her by.

Helliker continued, "She used to do the net wielding but she doesn’t do it now. Now I’m told the Queen shouts encouragement but observes the proceedings. It’s more of a show put on for her by staff. That’s just one of the things they do at Balmoral to stop them getting bored stiff."

He concluded, "Although the footsmen would love it if they weren’t there, I think you could say after horses and corgis, bats are her much lesser-known third favourite."

Chasing bats is not her only Balmoral pastime. "At night [Queen Elizabeth] indulges a love of stargazing. From her bedroom window, she can make out every curve and paw belonging to the great Ursa Major," Brown writes. "She once urged her dresser, Angela Kelly, to go stand in front of the castle shortly before midnight to get the best view."

Photo credit: Bettmann - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bettmann - Getty Images

Ursa Major, a constellation in the northern sky, means the "great bear." It is visible throughout most of the year from the northern hemisphere, including in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

The takeaway? Queen Elizabeth is a bat hunter and star gazer extraordinaire.

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