The Queen and her colony of bats

Published 10:25 pm Thursday, July 18, 2019

It’s not as if I need another reason to love Queen Elizabeth, but an article in British papers this week made me want to go against all royal protocol and hug her neck.

The Queen and her family traditionally are in residence at what is said to be her favorite home, Balmoral Castle, in a few weeks time and little did any of us know that for decades, the ballroom of this austere dwelling is also home to a colony of bats.

Makes you feel a little better about that mouse you saw scurrying across the kitchen floor, doesn’t it? I adore bats but as of this writing, I’ve yet to have any move into my house. I received a bat box once as a gift and was told it should be mounted on a very tall post to attract them, but after Paul said it might work if I nailed it to my head, I put it away in a fit of pique.

It should be pointed out that the Queen’s bats aren’t just any bats. These are protected Pipistrelle bats and they cannot be moved. Wherever they nest they are protected. Even if it’s in the rafters of Balmoral Castle. Even if you’re the Queen. And even if, as staff complain, they poop everywhere.

We’ve seen enough Downtown Abbey to be aware of how difficult and thankless a servant’s job can be in the best of times: the never ending dusting, vacuuming, silver polishing…but to have to wipe away the guano that lands upon priceless tapestries, floors and furniture, not to mention into the occasional 5pm gin and tonic, might be considered a bit much.

But the Queen doesn’t seem to think so. It’s being reported that she is fond of the bats and until relatively recently she joined in with her staff to try and catch them with butterfly nets before carefully releasing them outside the castle windows. However, the windows are left open should they decide to return, which makes it clear that the bat catching has been far more about entertainment than general hygiene and the preservation of royal relics.

And as rabies was eradicated from England decades ago there is no danger in the handling of what I like to refer to as ‘flying kittens.’

Since the days when Prince Albert purchased Balmoral for Victoria and essentially rebuilt it, I’m quite sure the castle, with its thunderous views of the Highlands, is well equipped with wi-fi. And that, to me, is what makes the daily escapades of bat catching so charming. Because I can’t, for the life of me, imagine Her Majesty lounging on a sofa hunched over a phone. That’s not her cup of Lapsang Souchong. No, she is clearly following in the footsteps of the hardy Queen Mother who was once famously photographed at the same location, thoroughly in her element, walking briskly through the woods as well as fly fishing in hip waders.

In pearls, of course.

As none of us had an inkling that the Queen has spent decades bat catching, who knows what other escapades she’s gotten up to when out of the public eye and heavy tiara. When she can spend a blissful day without make-up, her wellies on, tramping about the 50,000 acres clearing trails, watching deer, nibbling on a cliff bar. 

Maybe, knowing she’s completely away from the camera lens, she hikes up her skirt and dances a little jig. Maybe she has three glasses of sherry in the afternoon. But if she’s like the rest of us women, maybe she just can’t wait to get her bra off.