Prince William's 'dark days of grief' led to 'deep' connection to Scotland

The first seven months of the year have been challenging for the Royal Family due to health issues, so the summer holidays are expected to bring some much-needed cheer, especially for the young children of the Prince and Princess of Wales. Prince George, 10, his younger sister, Princess Charlotte, nine, and their little brother, Prince Louis, six, will be providing their mother with a great deal of emotional support as she bravely fights cancer.

Catherine, 42, is sure to treasure every moment spent in the loving company of her children this summer. A break from the daily routine promises to offer her - and her husband, Prince William - an extra measure of comfort.

After the King, Queen, and other key royals make their traditional visit to Scotland for Holyrood Week, anticipation grows for the highlight of their summer break - their stay at Balmoral. As the annual visit approaches, it represents a particularly poignant return for the mother-of-three, according to a Royal expert.

For Prince William, Scotland's appeal extends beyond its breathtaking scenery; it's a place of significant life events.

During their summer holiday at Balmoral in 1997, Prince William was confronted with the heartbreaking news of his mother's death, a grief that was echoed when his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II died there in 2022. However, it's also where he found future happiness, meeting Kate Middleton.

Reflecting on his profound connection with Scotland, William shared: "In short, Scotland is the source of some of my happiest memories. But also, my saddest. I was in Balmoral when I was told that my mother had died. Still in shock, I found sanctuary in the service at Crathie Kirk that very morning. And in the dark days of grief that followed, I found comfort and solace in the Scottish outdoors. As a result, the connection I feel to Scotland will forever run deep."

Now as parents, William and Kate are creating new Scottish memories with their children. "George, Charlotte and Louis already know how dear Scotland is to both of us and they're starting to build their own happy memories here too," he said.

The Wales family cherishes a unique bond with Scotland, which veteran Royal commentator Jennie believes will shape their summer plans. She suggests that William will consider Catherine's preferences, stating: "I think William and the children will fit in with whatever is best for Catherine."

They have the option to escape to their secluded haven, Tam-Na-Ghar - a cottage steeped in history, frequently visited by Queen Victoria and left to William by his great-grandmother, the Queen Mother, after her passing in 2002.

Ex-BBC Royal correspondent Jennie Bond shared with OK!: "It's been one heck of a year for the Royal Family so far and nothing would please the King more than to have his close family gathered together in the peace of Balmoral for a time to take stock together, mark the passing of an incredibly difficult few months and look to the future."

The rumour mill is in overdrive about whether the princess will make it to the family's beloved summer getaway in Scotland. Jennie Bond remarked: "Like Catherine herself has said, cancer treatment brings with it a large measure of uncertainty and that must extend to whether she is able to spend part of the summer holidays at Balmoral. If she does go, I'm sure the whole family will want to surround her with love, support and renewed strength. She, meanwhile, will want to make the summer months as fun and carefree for the children as she possibly can after everything she's been through."

If they decide against the trip to Scotland, it's likely they'll retreat to Anmer Hall in Norfolk, their cherished home away from home. Here, they relish in privacy, playtime in the garden, local jaunts, and trips to the stunning Holkham Beach.

Nonetheless, Scotland holds a special place in the princess's heart, not just for its splendour but also as the setting where her Royal life commenced when she met Prince William at the University of St Andrews.

The Royal Family traditionally retreats to the Highlands for their August break, where they indulge in various leisure activities.

Jennie commented: "Just like in the late Queen's reign, time at Balmoral is family time," and "And, if the King gets the chance, he will relish the chance to hang out with his grandchildren by reading them stories, teaching them about the wildlife around them, playing cards and enjoying picnics... weather permitting!"

royal family outside Balmoral Castle
royal family outside Balmoral Castle

She added: "Then there are the ponies and what better place to learn to ride? The late Queen was always popping her children and grandchildren on ponies and leading them around, and now Charles will do the same."

This break from Royal duties provides a perfect opportunity for quality time with the grandchildren. The King, known for his storytelling, might entertain the youngsters with his 1980 children's book, The Old Man of Lochnagar, set near Balmoral.

There could even be an opportunity for the King to take a thoughtful walk through Prince George's Wood, the arboretum at Birkhall named after his eldest grandson in 2013.

The future king is expected to enjoy numerous barbecues and adventures with his cousins in the Highlands, possibly even participating in the Royal tradition of salmon fishing on the River Dee alongside James, Earl of Wessex, 16, and his mother, the Duchess of Edinburgh, 59, both accomplished anglers.

King Charles is set to retreat to his Highland sanctuary for a period of reflection after a year tinged with health worries.

"Balmoral has always been the place where Charles takes time out to relax and reflect," observes Jennie. "Walking over the moors is his 'me time', where he can take solace in the hills and rugged countryside."

The passing of Queen Elizabeth at Balmoral Castle at the age of 96 saw her honoured as the Queen of Scots, and while the Royal Family have continued their official duties there, her spirit remains entwined with Scotland.

Queen Elizabeth's fondness for Scotland was evident, with her annual visits for both state and family occasions. The King holds his Scottish retreats in equal regard, keen to follow his mother's footsteps and maintain this special connection.

The King's bond with Scotland is unshaken, having celebrated pivotal moments there, including his engagement to Queen Camilla at their Birkhall residence. This echoes Royal tradition, with Balmoral being the backdrop for Prince Philip's private proposal to Princess Elizabeth in 1946.

"It will be their second Balmoral summer without the late Queen - but I'm sure her presence, and absence, will still be keenly felt," reflects Jennie.

For William, Catherine, and the rest of the Royal family, Balmoral's promise of escape is a beacon of hope amidst recent challenges.

"The summer stay up there has always been a time primarily for family for a gathering in the peace of the Scottish countryside after the busyness and noise of their working lives in London and elsewhere. It's a 'breathe, relax and be still' kind of place, and that's what they all love about it," explains Jennie. "And, this year, more than ever, they all need to gather themselves and re-group for what they must all hope will be better days to come."