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Queen decided to spend her last days at Balmoral where she enjoyed picnicking, picking fruit and training her dogs, chef reveals

QUEEN Elizabeth moved to Balmoral Castle so she could pass away at her favorite home, where she was seen as a mother and grandmother rather than the monarch, her former leader has claimed.

Her Majesty wanted to see her last days at her Scottish family home which she called “her jewel in the Scottish Highlands”.


Queen Elizabeth II wanted her last days in the Scottish family homeCredit: Getty
Chef Darren McGrady saw another side to the Queen when he was her personal chef


Chef Darren McGrady saw another side to the Queen when he was her personal chefCredit: Getty Images – Getty

It’s the brainchild of Darren McGrady, Queen Elizabeth II’s former personal chef, who spent 11 years cooking her breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Author, culinary consultant, event planner and speaker McGrady, who now lives in Dallas, Texas, revealed how the late monarch found family refuge and a real home in Balmoral.

Her Majesty enjoyed picnicking, picking fruit and training her dogs at the estate – and even socializing with the staff.

McGrady said the Queen decided to end her life in her favorite place in the world.

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He said: “The last few days I think she knew that was it. She knew she wasn’t coming back.

“His view was, ‘I’m going up there and I’ll hang on to do my duty.’

“Because she was so devoted to duty and self-sacrifice that she forced herself to stay well enough to swear the new Prime Minister, and then after that it was ‘I’m ready now’.”

Growing emotional, McGrady reflected on the importance of Balmoral Castle to the Queen.

“The Queen has called Balmoral her jewel in the Scottish Highlands.

“She walked into those doors and just hung her crown on the door and felt out of order. She was a different person there.

“I used to do banquets at Buckingham Palace where we served food in beautiful hand painted 19th century Meissen china serving the most amazing wines and champagnes.

“As soon as we get to Balmoral, we put food in yellow plastic Tupperware containers for picnics so she can sit there watching the deer in the hills.

“Balmoral was a family home, not like Buckingham Palace or Windsor Palace.

“She could be mother and grandmother there.”

McGrady recalled some memorable moments of seeing the Queen relaxing on the 50,000-acre estate, which included grouse moorland, woodland and farmland, as well as herds of deer, Highland cattle, sheep and ponies .

McGrady revealed that the “boss” loves strawberries, especially those grown on his land.

“Can you imagine the queen picking berries?

“I remember being at Balmoral one afternoon walking past the beautiful cages of raspberries, strawberries and black currants and I heard people in the cages.

“I couldn’t believe someone was stealing berries. So I went in to investigate and found myself face to face with the Queen and Princess Margaret picking berries and laughing in headscarves, Barbours and rubber boots.

“And she turned to me and said, ‘Can you make jam with that, please?’ Oh my God, it was something my grandmother used to say.

McGrady recalled how Her Majesty was also invited to a Highland dance with the Queen at a party night.

“It was a surprise. I have to dance with the queen. She was in the center with Prince Phillip and Charles were there.

“At the staff fancy dress party, the queen came down and ruled the fancy dress party. She didn’t have to do that.

“She was generous and kind. The Queen lined up around December 19 every year to shake hands and give a Christmas present to 300 staff. She didn’t have to.

“She did this because she cared about the staff.”

McGrady added: “The same thing happened at the procession on Wednesday where her page Paul Whybrew, who had been with her for 40 years, was right in front of the Royal Family. It was the Queen saying I want you the low.”

McGrady also felt immense pride in Balmoral.

“The highlight of the Queen has been bringing guests to Balmoral for dinners and saying that this salmon is from the River Dee, the venison is from my estate or the peaches are from Windsor Castle.

“She could buy anything she wanted and have it delivered, but for her to be able to say it came from my garden was special.”

She was proud of her homemade strawberries.

“You could send strawberries five days a week to Balmoral, she would love them and have them over and over again because they weren’t on her estate.

“But you try to put strawberries on the menu in January and it would be ‘over the top’.

“The irony of this was that the only luxury she asked for on her wedding day was fresh strawberries in November.

“You can’t get them in England so they grew them in the Windsor greenhouses so they could have them on the menu.”

McGrady also recalled how much the Queen loved being with the beloved Corgis and the other dogs on the estate.

“Prince Phillip said in his life that dogs and horses come first and we come after, and if so the chiefs go down to 100 in the list.

“The Queen was just a dog lover and it wasn’t just the corgis. I spent many happy weekends at the estate where she did the dog trials. She loved doing the dog shows and her orders were simply amazing.

The Queen has often shown her gentle and caring side to staff during her time.

“I remember her often coming into the kitchen saying, ‘thank you, it was a nice weekend.'”

“She made you feel super special. It meant more to me than a medal, a gold watch or a payment.

McGrady, who runs the royal catering company, also revealed that the Queen does not live an extravagant, high-end life.

“When I joined Queen, I thought I was serving smoked salmon, caviar, lobster and champagne every day, but that wasn’t it. No one can eat it all year round.

“When she was alone, she loved to keep things simple: grilled fish, nice salad and vegetables, but attention to detail in everything.

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“Whether it was pan-fried foie gras, salt and pepper mashed potatoes, a little cream and a dash of nutmeg. The queen was attentive to detail.

“On a personal note, she was like a grandmother to me – just not the one I hugged. But she was amazing.