Monday, 16 May 2016

The Women of Windsor

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Windsor for her 90th birthday pageant

There have been a lot of birthday celebrations this year as the Queen turns 90 and there are many more to come, but the pageant that took place in Windsor on May 15th has got be among the royal favourites. For this party was centred around two of the bedrocks in the life of Elizabeth II - her love for her family and her love of horses. The men of the House of Windsor wore its uniform for this special evening but it was the ladies of the royal dynasty who dominated celebrations. As the Queen marked her 90th birthday in the town from which her line takes its name, it was the women of Windsor who made this celebration so special.


The night was a look back at the Queen's long life and reign through family photos, family memories and events linked to equestrianism that told the tale of the 20th century in music and spectacle. And at the heart of it were the women who have been so integral and important to her reign.

There were many images of her mother, the Queen Mother, and her grandmother, Queen Mary, as well as her sister, Princess Margaret - a reminder of the four women who carried the House of Windsor in the dark days of 1952 following the early death of King George VI.

The Queen as baby Elizabeth in the arms of her mother, then Duchess of York, in an image shown during her 90th birthday pageant at Windsor

And of course, there were memories of her father, the unexpected king whose reign was such a huge success, and of her grandfather, George V, himself never expected to rule but who took the throne and changed the Monarchy forever.

Two queens and a king in the days before anyone thought Elizabeth of York would become head of the House of Windsor

At her side all the way through was the Duke of Edinburgh and this royal couple looked particularly moved when images of their wedding were showed and words were spoken about their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The Queen arrived by horse drawn carriage at the pageant which was being held at Windsor Castle. Thousands had gathered on the Long Drive outside while six thousand ticket holders joined Elizabeth II and many of her family for a night marking her ninety years.

The event had been overseen by the Prince of Wales who literally showered his mum with kisses as she stepped out of her carriage. One on each cheek and one on her gloved hand for good measure - she might be Her Majesty to the rest of us but to Charles she is definitely his beloved mummy.

The Royal Box was packed out with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and the Duke of York in the front row waiting for the Queen with Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, the Countess of Wessex, James, Viscount Severn and the Duke of Kent visible in row two.

The King of Bahrain sat next to the Queen. And we also got to see a few more of her more distant relations as Donatus, Landgrave of Hesse joined Kate with his wife, Floria, sitting between William and Harry.

But it was the women of Elizabeth's line that dominated the evening. The Princess Royal and Zara Tindall, both champion horsewomen, rode out as the evening came to an end to huge cheers and looking really rather emotional at the special tribute they were paying to the Queen.

They were joined in the arena by the Earl of Wessex and the youngest granddaughter of Elizabeth II, Lady Louise Windsor, who did her granny proud with a display of equestrianism that went down very well with the guest of honour.
There were also performances from Kylie Minogue, James Blunt, Dame Shirley Bassey and Katherine Jenkins as well as tributes read by Dame Helen Mirren, Martin Clunes and Jim Carter with a song from his wife, Imelda Staunton. The whole evening was hosted by those new royal favourites, Ant and Dec.
But the real stars of this show were the women who have surrounded Elizabeth II through her ninety years. From the mother whose name she carries to the youngest granddaughter who followed in her footsteps in front of an audience of millions, this was all about the ladies of the house. This special birthday pageant brought together all the Queen's horses under the leadership of the royal women of Windsor.

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