Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Queen at 90: a picnic in the rain

The Queen addresses the crowds in the Mall who had turned out to celebrate her 90th birthday

It was the finale of a party that began in April and which has had many highlights already. In the year the Queen turns 90 there have been plenty of celebrations but the one on the Mall on June 12th 2016 perhaps summed everything up. Tens of thousands of people joined her for a picnic. It rained but they partied anyway. Elizabeth II has made a habit of keeping calm and carrying on. On this special day, she was no different.

The Queen has seen rain at big moments in her reign already. On her Diamond Jubilee, the royal river pageant took place in a torrential downpour while her Coronation Day was famously wet. And as preparations began on the Mall for the Patron's Lunch which would see 10,000 people linked to 600 UK and Commonwealth organisations associated with the Queen sit down to a picnic lunch, the Queen had a peek through the curtains and found herself face to face with yet more rain.


It hadn't dampened spirits. As the weather got wetter, the guests got down to business and tucked into a hamper filled with sandwiches and special treats. They also got a free gift they weren't expecting - a poncho. Things got so damp, covering up was required. 

And those ponchos were still in evidence as the rain started to clear and the royals started to appear. The Queen's family headed out into the Mall to meet as many of those who had come long to join the fun as possible.

And there was plenty of royal representation here with all the Queen's children except the Prince of Wales (attending a celebration for his mother's birthday in Gloucestershire alongside the Duchess of Cornwall) getting out and about to chat.

But while Lady Louise Windsor, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge glided elegantly through the walkabout, Prince Harry had other ideas. And where the party prince starts, others follow. Within moments, Harry was posing for photos and selfies and even dancing in the Mall. A royal legend.

All families like to remember special events with photos and the House of Windsor is no different. As they waited for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to make their appearance in an open topped car, the royal walkabout came to an end with a big group photo taken by the Duke of York for the Buckingham Palace album. And then it was time for the Queen.

As they had on her actual 90th birthday in June, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh stood for the car journey meaning everyone got a good view of the birthday Monarch.

They made their way along the Mall to huge cheers and a spot of sunshine as the cloud started to break after the wet morning.


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry also got a taste of open top car on the Mall action although it was more of a squeeze to get three in the viewing platform than two. 

They were all rejoined by the rest of the Royal Family at the end of the drive where it was time for speeches.  Pride of place went to her eldest grandson, Peter Phillips, who had helped organise the whole event. 

But it was his cousin, the boy born to be king, who led the tributes. The Duke of Cambridge gave a short speech in which he spoke of his grandmother's 'unwavering' devotion to the causes of which she is patron. He also thanked her on behalf of all her grandchildren and great grandchildren and wished her a very happy birthday.


The Queen also gave a speech, thanking all those who had wished her a happy birthday and joined the celebrations. And she finished with a reference to the rather epic nature of the celebrations, telling the crowd she wasn't sure how she would feel if people were still singing Happy Birthday to her in December.
The Royal Family then settled down for a parade telling the story of the Queen's nine decades and Elizabeth II seemed to love every second of it.

So much of her royal life has links to the Mall where she celebrated today. From her own first appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony through VE Day, her Coronation, royal weddings and jubilees. This picnic in the rain had all the hallmarks of the second age of Elizabeth and it helped tell yet another chapter in this royal story and a very special one at that. This was the chapter of the Queen at 90.

Photo credit: BBC TV still.


  1. Beautiful write-up as always. Thank you.

    1. Thank you! It was such a lovely day to watch unfold.