Royal Family's Annual Ghillies Ball At Balmoral: Everything You Need To Know

Royal Family’s Annual Ghillies Ball At Balmoral: Everything You Need To Know

There is a party that Queen Elizabeth hosts every year at the end of her summer holiday at Balmoral in honor of the Queen.

During the summer months, Queen Elizabeth travels to Balmoral Castle in Scotland for her summer holiday every year. “I think Granny is the happiest where she is.

I think she really, really loves the Highlands.” Princess Eugenie mentioned in the documentary Our Queen at Ninety that her grandmother was the happiest where she was.

There is a tradition that the Queen will carry on while she is at Balmoral, a tradition started by her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, the Ghillies Ball.

Here is everything you need to know about the annual dance that takes place every year.

Ghillies Ball’s history

The day after Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, purchased Balmoral in 1852, the couple threw a dance in September to thank their staff and servants for their dedication and service.

There is no doubt that this dance would soon become known as the Ghillies Ball.

A ghillie is a Gaelic word referring to a gamekeeper, and a ghillie is also a particular design of the shoe that is commonly worn in Scottish country dancing.

Greg King writes in Twilight of Splendor: The Court of Queen Victoria During Her Diamond Jubilee Year, “Despite her age and infirmity, Victoria sometimes joined in on the intricate jigs and reels, wearing her black satin gown with a sash of Balmoral tartan slung across the bodice of the gown when the pipers played.” According to one contemporary observer, Queen Victoria had “light airy steps in the old courtly fashion; she did not limp or stick, and every figure danced with care and beauty.”

Also, the Ghillies Ball was held during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather King George V and her father King George VI in the following decades.

At Buckingham Palace, Frederick Corbett, Deputy Comptroller of Supply, shared his memories of the Ghillies Ball during the reign of George V. Corbett wrote in his memoirs, “Queen Mary was an amazingly energetic figure at these dances,” he said. During the first half of the dance, King George V would take part in all of the Highland dances and many of the old English country dances, which she always had included in the program.

She had a great love for Highland dances and many of the old English country dances. While he sat on the Royal dais at the end of the room, he would observe the dancers in a keen manner, occasionally pointing a shrewd finger at one of his staff.

Elizabeth, then Princess Elizabeth, attended her first ball at the age of 12.

At the Ghillies Ball, what happens?

The royal family chef Darren McGrady recounts in Eating Royalty that “The ball was an evening of Scottish dance as a thank you to the staff for all their hard work. Each member of the royal family in residence attended as well as their guests.” As McGrady shares, the first dance was often the “Dashing White Sergeant” – a Scottish country dance in which two women dance with one man.

Royal Family’s Annual Ghillies Ball At Balmoral: Everything You Need To Know

In the days of George V, Corbett recalled that “dancing usually began at nine-thirty and continued until about eleven thirty in the evening, when the Royal Family would usually leave the ballroom with their guests to take refreshments from the buffet set up in the dining room.” You can see a menu for the 1912 Ghillies Ball here.

Ghillies Ball attendees wear what?

Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch, a biography written by Queen Elizabeth’s biographer Sally Bedell Smith, says that at the ball, men wear black ties and kilts, and women wear tiaras, long gowns, and tartan sashes with diamond brooches.

Due to the fact that this is a private event, no photographs or videos are usually released. The ball, however, was documented by a series of photographs taken in honor of the Silver Wedding Celebrations of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip that took place in 1971.

It was twenty years later that the ball was filmed for the documentary Elizabeth R: A Year in the Life of the Queen which was released twenty years later.

As you will see in the documentary, the royal family, including Princess Diana, Princess Anne, and, of course, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, danced an Eightsome Reel, which is a Scottish country dance.

There is no doubt that Queen Elizabeth looks extremely happy in the video. As part of her outfit, she wears the traditional tartan sash as well as the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara. Watch the clip here:

In Royal Road Trip, Dame Darcy Bussell, a former ballerina, spoke about how the Queen has done a lot of Scottish dancing over the last 70 years as a monarch.

The Ghillies Ball is regarded as one of the most important parts of that.” Bussell said, “apparently she did every dance and she’d stay up late into the night, just to see what’s going on.”.

Ghillies Ball when does it take place?

Each year, the ball usually takes place at the end of the royal family’s summer break, which is usually in late August or early September. In the ballroom of Balmoral Castle, the event is held every year.