Friday, 3 February 2017

The Sapphire Queen: Elizabeth II's landmarks, the birthdays

The Queen celebrates her 90th birthday in 2016
(photo Lambeth Palace Twitter)

OK, we've had silver and gold and you know you're getting diamonds but as the lookback at the landmarks of Elizabeth II's reign continues, let's take a break from the Jubilees just for a moment and concentrate on a cake event. As well as major anniversaries, the Queen's record breaking reign has, of course, taken in big birthdays and some of them have turned into celebrations just as big as the jubilees. As Elizabeth II approaches the 65th anniversary of her reign, here's a look back at some other landmarks - the Queen's big birthdays.

The Queen marked her first big adult birthday, her 21st, in South Africa where she was on tour with her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and her sister, Princess Margaret. On the day of her majority, April 21st 1946, she gave a famous speech on the radio in which she said ''I declare that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service'. A birthday promise kept and kept well. 

The big 4-0 was low key in comparison to other landmark birthdays for the Queen but then she had a 
two year old at home and that keeps any mum busy. She did see England win the World Cup, though, a few months later  - the Queen might not be the greatest football fan in the world but seeing one of the home nations claim the most famous trophy in the world is a pretty great birthday gift all the same.

The Queen marked her 50th birthday with an informal official photo at the Tower of London. Well, for an historic moment you need an historic backdrop. It would be the last major landmark birthday with no widespread partying to accompany it. Here comes the biggies.

The Queen's 60th birthday set the template for the major celebrations that would accompany landmarks to come. There was a carriage procession through the streets of Windsor, a specially composed song with which she was serenaded and a balcony appearance at Buckingham Palace where huge crowds cheered her. 

Turning 70 wasn't put in the royal diary as a big day out but that didn't stop the celebrations. The Queen was greeted by big crowds in the days around her birthday, including one at Sandringham, while her Lord Lieutenants hosted a dinner for her at Syon House the day after she turned 70.

By the time her 80th birthday celebrations came around, in 2006, there was no holding back the festivities. The Queen was photographed sifting through some of the tens of thousands of cards sent to wish her a Happy Birthday and this was just the beginning of some serious partying.

This was when the Queen really got into the birthday spirit. There was a thanksgiving service at Windsor, a lunch given by the Commonwealth, a BBC Prom and a children's party at Buckingham Palace.  That was before we got to the glamourous celebration dinner at Kew Palace in London, the first time the venue had been used for a major royal event in decades. 

Once the celebrations had calmed down, there was a Hebridean cruise with her family in July - the weather was lovely. If you like rain. Then as the year came to an end, the parties started all over again as the Queen celebrated her 80th with dinner and dancing at the Ritz.

And now we are ninety. The celebrations for this huge birthday were shared across the country and the Commonwealth. On the day itself, the Queen was in Windsor where she drove through the streets in an open topped car and enjoyed a cake made by Great British Bake Off winner, Nadiya Hussein.

May saw The Queen's Birthday Celebration at Windsor - four days of equestrian performances which ended with a spectacular show in front of the whole Royal Family. 

The official celebrations around her official birthday in June were even bigger. A National Service of Thanksgiving took place at St Paul's as the birthday weekend got under way while huge crowds turned out to see Elizabeth II at Trooping the Colour the following day.

The birthday celebrations concluded with the Patron's Lunch - a party in the Mall for representatives from some of the many charities of which the Queen is patron. And throughout the year we were treated to official portraits and special photos marking this milestone for the Queen and the Monarchy - Elizabeth II is the only British ruler to reach the age of 90.  A landmark, indeed.

There will be another landmark celebration ahead of the Sapphire Anniversary of the Queen on the blog tomorrow.

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