21 April 2013

Flashback: The Queen's Birthday

The Queen has two birthdays, a fact which seems to be a favorite on trivia lists compiled about Her Majesty. She has an official birthday in June, with a better chance for good weather for her parade and balcony appearance, in addition to her actual birthday. The Queen was born on April 21, 1926 at the London home of her maternal grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.

The Queen usually passes her April birthday quietly, either going about her business as usual or spending the day privately. In 2011 the day fell on Maundy Thursday, so she attended the Royal Maundy Service; in 2012, she spent the day at the Newbury Races. It's the landmark birthdays that inspire the big celebrations, and snippets of those are our flashback topic today.

Video: Excerpt from the 21st birthday speech
The Queen's 21th birthday, in 1947, occurred during a family tour of South Africa. Wearing a simple double strand of pearls, she gave what would become one of her most famous speeches.

Left: 50th birthday. Center: 60th. Right: 70th.
Her 50th birthday, in 1976, included family photos (wearing the Cambridge Pearl Pendant Brooch, among other standard jewels). Her 60th, in 1986, was a pretty big national celebration including a balcony appearance (wearing the Australian Wattle Brooch). But her 70th was far more low-key, as she greeted crowds at Sandringham wearing the Sapphire Chrysanthemum Brooch. This was in 1996, during a particularly bad time for the monarchy, and the occasion was low profile at the Queen's request.

In contrast, by 2006 the monarchy was in a much better place in terms of public opinion, and the festivities for the Queen's 80th birthday spanned the whole year. Multiple occasions took on a special birthday theme, but (as with all the years shown here), we'll only attempt to capture a few here.
80th Birthday Walkabout
The day began in Windsor, where the Queen, dressed in cheery pink with the City of London Lily Brooch on her shoulder, went on a walkabout among the crowds.
Dinner at Kew Palace
In the evening, she attended a private family dinner organized by Prince Charles at Kew Palace. The family came outside to watch the fireworks set off for the occasion, and the Queen sparkled in what looks like Queen Mary's Cluster Earrings, the Pear-Shaped Pendant Fringe Necklace, and several diamond rings.

L to R: Lunch for fellow 80-year-olds, opening birthday cards, St. George's Chapel service
Other events surrounding the big day included a lunch and reception for other 80-year-olds celebrating their birthdays on the same day (wearing the Cambridge Pearl Pendant Brooch), a break to open some of the thousands of birthday cards and so on she received (wearing the Frosted Sunflower Brooch), and a Service of Thanksgiving at St. George's Chapel in Windsor (wearing the Aquamarine Clip Brooches).

L to R: BBC visit, St. Paul's service, Children's Party, Commonwealth luncheon
There was also a special visit to the BBC (wearing the Carrington Sapphire Feather Brooch) who were celebrating the 80th anniversary of their royal charter. A second, more public, Service of Thanksgiving was held in June at St. Paul's Cathedral followed by a lunch at Mansion House (for which she wore the Frosted Sunflower Brooch). Two thousand children were invited to Buckingham Palace to "celebrate the magic of books" at the Children's Party at the Palace later in June, where the Queen wore the Pearl Triangle Brooch. There was also a lunch given by the Commonwealth, at which she wore the Cullinan V Brooch.

L: Windsor Horse Show dinner, R: Ritz party
There were more formal occasions, too, including a special dinner during the Windsor Horse Show, which she attended wearing her Sapphire Tassel Demi-Parure and various sapphire rings. She chose sapphires too for an event to finish out the birthday year: a private party for family and friends held at the Ritz in December. She wore her most impressive sapphires, the George VI and Modern Sapphire Set (earrings, necklace, and bracelet), and also some sapphire rings.

Today (2013), the Queen marks her 87th birthday. She's spending the day privately, but that won't stop us from wishing her a very happy birthday and many happy returns!

Photos: Royal Collection/PA/Corbis/Getty Images