'Surreal and utterly freaky': What former PMs have said about meeting Queen at Balmoral

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Liz Truss has been appointed as the new UK prime minister having met Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland. The event usually happens at Buckingham Palace but was reorganised to be held at Balmoral Castle, where the monarch is enjoying the last few weeks of her summer stay. Her Majesty has been suffering ongoing mobility issues for several months, meaning the historic duty was not carried out at her London residence for the first time ever. 

Balmoral Castle is nestled in the highlands of Aberdeenshire, roughly 50 miles west of Aberdeen. It sits within the famous Cairngorms National Park on the banks of the River Dee. 

Ms Truss is the 15th prime minister appointed by the Queen, who first confirmed Sir Winston Churchill in 1951. 

The leader and her predecessor Boris Johnson flew to Scotland for the traditional ‘kissing hands’ ceremony, an audience with the new prime minister which sees the monarch ask that person to form a government in her name. 

Previously, prime ministers were actually required to kiss the sovereign’s hands to show their respect for the Crown, but in recent times the ceremony involves only a bow or curtsy and handshake. 

READ MORE: Liz Truss LIVE: Beaming Queen warmly greets new Prime Minister at Balmoral

Queen and former PMs

The Queen has appointed 15 prime ministers during her 70-year reign. (Image: Getty Images)

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson delivered his final speech before travelling to Balmoral. (Image: Getty Images)

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While former prime ministers have made regular visits to Balmoral in the past, none have been appointed at the Scottish residence. 

Ex-prime minister Lord Salisbury referred to Balmoral Castle as “Siberia”, while another, Benjamin Disraeli, complained that “carrying on the government of the country 600 miles from the metropolis doubles the labour”. 

Margaret Thatcher likened her trips to purgatory and Tony Blair described his annual visit as “a vivid combination of the intriguing, the surreal and the utterly freaky”, claiming he only survived the weekend with the help of strong alcoholic drinks. 

Blair’s youngest child, Leo, was conceived at the royal residence after his wife, Cherie, left her contraception in London following the “sheer embarrassment” of the staff unpacking her wash bag the year before. 

In contrast, David Cameron, recalled the “bliss” of walking the Aberdeenshire hills without his close protection team. 

David Cameron shakes hands with the Queen

David Cameron recalled feeling ‘bliss’ while staying at Balmoral. (Image: Getty Images)

He wrote at length about his relationship with royalty in his 2019 memoir ‘For the Record’.

He recalled how he “lapped up the Balmoral experience” which gave him the opportunity to live away from the public gaze, writing: “One year Sam and I chose to go for a walk, and were given a map and a suggested route. 

“The Queen is keen that you should have complete solitude, and Balmoral is the one place your close protection team is left behind as you head up to the hills . . . we wandered for miles, forgetting to consult the map. 

“Eventually we saw a Land Rover and flagged it down to ask the way. 

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral sits on 50,000 acres of Scottish countryside. (Image: Getty Images)

“The head of the Duke [of Edinburgh] appeared out of the window and he snorted, ‘You’re completely lost, aren’t you, prime minister?’” 

The Balmoral estate stretches over 50,000 acres of countryside which homes farmland, deer, ponies and cattle. 

It was bought by Prince Albert for his wife Queen Victoria, who had fallen in love with the Scottish highlands, in 1852. 

At present day, the estate features monuments in tribute to Victoria’s consort, children and her close friend John Brown. 

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Key events in Queen Elizabeth II's reign graphic

Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-serving British monarch in history. (Image: Express.co.uk)

The current Queen shares the same love for the Scottish residence and spends an extended summer break on the sprawling estate every year. 

She often invites guests, including prime ministers, to explore the hills and the glens, use her highland ponies and try their hand at grouse shooting, deer stalking and salmon fishing. 

Mr Cameron wrote: “Every year I was asked whether I would like to fish for salmon, shoot grouse, ride one of the Queen’s Highland ponies or go red deer-stalking.

“I love doing all those things, but I had cut down on country sports after becoming Conservative leader in 2005. I had enough problems dealing with the ‘posh’ accusation without being photographed with a gun in one hand and a dead bird on the other.”

Queen and Prince Philip with horse

Both the Queen and her late husband Prince Philip shared a love for Balmoral. (Image: Getty Images)

He added: “The pinnacle of the visit was Prince Philip’s bothy barbecue. 

“The Queen drives you at breakneck speed across the moor to a bothy . . . The Duke of Edinburgh is outside tongs in hand, smoke rising from a row of sizzling grouse. 

“And then the two of them, and whichever other Windsors are around at the time, cook and serve you dinner.”

Today, Ms Truss has not been invited to the Queen’s much-loved home for an idyllic, summer break, but has instead been given an opportunity to forge a relationship that many of her predecessors have found invaluable.

Liz Truss and Queen shake hands

Liz Truss has been appointed as the UK’s new prime minister. (Image: Getty Images)

Speaking to Sky News, historian Ben Pimlott described the monarch’s role as that of “constitutionally sanctioned counsellor and therapist… the only person a prime minister talks to whose confidence he knows will not be abused”.

A photograph, released on Tuesday, from inside the drawing room of Balmoral Castle shows the Queen, who is holding a walking stick, smiling as she shakes Ms Truss’s hand. 

In a statement, Buckingham Palace said: “The Queen received in Audience The Right Honourable Elizabeth Truss MP today and requested her to form a new Administration.

“Ms Truss accepted Her Majesty’s offer and kissed hands upon her appointment as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury.”



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