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he Queen and Prince Philip value their summer break at Balmoral more than any other part of their year, especially when they have been as busy as they have recently. It is the only time of the year, as the Queen puts it, that she manages to ‘hibernate’ and sleep in the same place for six weeks, which she describes in her understated way as ‘a nice change’.

   Of course she is not exactly on holiday, as she has to attend to her red boxes and entertain visitors, including the Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife. Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon, who had an audience with the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse last month, could be another visitor. Miss Sturgeon is anxious not to alienate monarchists, but is well aware that republican sentiments are stronger in Scotland than in England.

   Her predecessor Alex Salmond used to enjoy his trips to Balmoral as he shared a love of horses and racing with the Queen. Her Majesty even gave him a winning tip during the month of the Scottish independence referendum last year, telling him she had a two-year-old running at Haydock Park that ‘we hope will do rather well’. It did and Salmond boasted he won a royal fortune.

   The Queen’s finances have been under scrutiny again and it was revealed that Buckingham Palace needs £150 million-worth of repairs. The state rooms have not been redecorated or rewired in the present reign, there is still asbestos in parts of the building and the boilers are at least 60 years old. The palace suffers from the same problems as many grand old buildings: it is far from energy efficient and many of its 775 rooms and 78 bathrooms have never been refurbished.

   This month Buckingham Palace is open to the public, who will see none of this. Instead they will receive ‘A Royal Welcome’ and can imagine they are guests of the Queen as they witness a re-creation of the settings for banquets, audiences, receptions and garden parties. They won’t notice the odd shabby bit of paintwork or frayed curtain. As King Edward VIII, a brief and reluctant tenant, once said, ‘One never tinkers with palaces; like museums they seem to resist change.’

   Equally worrying for the Queen, who owns the Balmoral estate, which is primarily a shooting estate, is the new Scottish government decree to abolish tax breaks on gaming activities. Thus estates such as Balmoral will become far more expensive to run. The Queen naturally wants to keep everything intact for future royal generations and it will be all their responsibilities to keep the Scottish estates running smoothly.

   The christening of Princess Charlotte showed how the Duchess of Cambridge, who studied art history at university, enjoys painting a proverbial picture for special occasions. Pushing the silver-wheeled Millson pram once used by the Queen for Andrew and Edward was a nice touch. So too was dressing Prince George in an outfit similar to that worn by his father when he went to meet baby brother Harry in hospital almost 31 years before.

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