Queen allowed Kate Middleton ‘rare privilege’ on her first visits to Balmoral

Spending time with your boyfriend or girlfriend's family at the beginning of a relationship can often be a scary prospect – especially if they're the Royal Family.

The Duchess of Cambridge would have certainly felt the pressure in the early days of her courtship with Prince William, ahead of her first few visits to Balmoral Castle, where the Queen spends her summers.

But Her Majesty was keen to make Kate feel as welcome as possible during these visits, giving her a rare privilege, reports The Mirror.

Author and royal commentator Katie Nicholl claims the monarch allowed Kate to take photos while visiting Balmoral, because she knew how much she loved photography.

It may not seem like much – but Katie explains that this simply wasn't the done thing usually.

In her book, Kate: The Future Queen, she wrote: "Until now the Queen had met Kate only fleetingly at the wedding of Peter and Autumn Phillips, but she went out of her way to make her feel welcome, giving her permission to take pictures at Balmoral."

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And according to Katie, this and being invited to Balmoral showed how the Queen was ready to let Kate into the inner royal circle.

She added: "As a woman who has lived her entire life in the public eye, the Queen rarely lets her guard down, and very few apart from her family and closest friends get to see the real Elizabeth."

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The Queen stays at Balmoral for her summer holiday each year and is in currently in residence there.

Over the course of her stay, which usually extends into September, the Queen invites family members to stay with her and they take part in a range of outdoor pursuits.

The royals are said to love going on walks around the estate's 50,000 acres as well as enjoying picnics and barbecues.

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However, the Queen's break at Balmoral will no doubt look a bit different this year following the death of her husband, Prince Philip, in April aged 99.

Princess Eugenie has previously spoken about her grandparents' love of the castle.

She told the programme Our Queen at 90: "It's the most beautiful place on earth. I think Granny is the most happy there, I think she really, really loves the Highlands…walks, picnics, dogs, a lot of dogs, there's always dogs, and people coming in and out all the time.

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"Family-wise we're all there, so it's a lovely base for Granny and Grandpa to be – for us to come and see them up there where you just have room to breathe and run."

And one photo, actually taken by Kate, shows how much the Queen and the late Prince Philip loved being surrounded by family there.

Released after Philip's death in April, it shows the late Duke of Edinburgh with the Queen in 2018, surrounded by seven of their great-grandchildren.

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