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Did Queen Elizabeth II Really Catch Bats in Butterfly Nets?

(Photo Credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images &  Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images & Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Royal engagements may sometimes be a little boring, so when Queen Elizabeth II went on her yearly retreat to Balmoral Castle, she liked to let down her hair and have some fun! In Tina Brown’s book Palace Papers, she provides an intimate glance into royal life, including one very funny anecdote about the Queen’s time at Balmoral Castle that you’d probably never expect.

Photo of Balmoral Castle
Balmoral Castle, The Royals’ Scottish Home., circa 1993 (Photo Credit: Tim Graham Photo Library / Getty Images)

A favorite royal retreat

Balmoral Castle looks like something straight out of Bavaria. It is located in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and was built in 1390. The castle is large and picturesque and has been one of the residences of the British royal family since 1852. Balmoral was a favorite retreat of Queen Elizabeth II, who visited the castle for three months of the year every year since her birth in 1926. She passed away there on September 8, 2022.

Black and white photo of the royal family picnicking in front of Balmoral Castle
Baby Prince Andrew perches on Prince Philip’s lap during a picnic on the grounds of Balmoral Castle. Also pictured are Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Princess Anne. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

Oh no, bats!

Balmoral Castle is home to a colony of bats, as the ballroom is said to have nests of bats located in the rafters. The Bat Conservation Trust has suggested that the critters are most likely the pipistrelle species, commonly found all over Scotland. Much to the dismay of the staff, these bats are known to fly around the estate and defecate everywhere.

Someone get the Queen a net!

To kill boredom and also address the issue of these pesky bats, the Queen was at times seen wielding a butterfly net to try and catch them! She even had her staff get involved, pointing out the bats so they can help catch them with their nets. Surprisingly, chasing bats was one of the recurring Balmoral pastimes.

Colour photo of Queen Elizabeth II with one of her corgis
Queen Elizabeth II of England at Balmoral Castle with one of her Corgis, 28th September 1952. (Photo Credit: Bettman / Getty Images)

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As the Queen grew older, though, she had to put the days of bat-catching behind her. In her later years, the Queen offered encouragement to staff who not only continued to try and catch the bats to stop them from defecating, but also provided entertainment to the Queen herself. The Sun‘s royal editor, Adam Helliker, commented that “even though the footmen would love it if they weren’t there, I think you could say after horses and corgis, bats [were] her much lesser-known third favourite.”

Who knew the Queen had been such a bat-catching extraordinaire?

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!