Queen Elizabeth II’s 95th birthday Wednesday is expected to be a more somber affair than her milestone 90th, taking place under continuing restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic and just days after the funeral of her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
She reaches this significant age marker in good health, but no doubt still grieving the loss of the “Iron Duke,” as he was affectionately known, as the official period of mourning draws to an end.
The duke died early on April 9 in his private apartment at Windsor Castle, the queen at his side, a few weeks after a lengthy hospitalization. He was 99, just short of his 100th birthday in June. He had been her closest adviser and supporter, the longest-serving royal consort in British history, and the man credited with helping to make her long reign a success.
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At Windsor Castle, the routine business of the crown went on. Just four days after her husband’s death, the queen carried out an an already-scheduled engagement, presiding over a retirement ceremony on April 13 for her most senior royal household official, according to the Court Circular, the official record of royal engagements.
The Lord Chamberlain, the Earl Peel, who oversaw the arrangements for the funeral of Prince Philip, met with the queen, delivered up the insignia of his office and took his leave after the queen invested him with the Royal Victorian Chain. The next day, the queen held another audience to welcome the new Lord Chamberlain, Lord Andrew Parker, and pass on the insignia of office, according to the Court Circular.
From this, there seems little doubt the queen will keep calm and carry on, because that’s what she promised to do when she was 21: She will continue to serve as the United Kingdom’s head of state, albeit while curtailing some of her in-person appearances to protect against COVID-19.
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Even if Prince Philip were still alive, the queen’s real birthday would have been a private celebration; now COVID requires she remain cloistered in Windsor Castle and she is still in mourning, so a big family party is not on.
For past significant birthdays, the palace released an official portrait along with tributes on royal social media. The tributes are likely but a new picture is not expected, according to U.K. media reports.
Meanwhile, the traditional 41- and 21-gun salutes in Hyde Park and the Tower of London are canceled, as they were last year because of the pandemic.
Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York was born April 21, 1926, at the London home of her parents, the Duke and Duchess of York who later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
But the queen’s “official” birthday, the Trooping the Colour parade, is celebrated in June, by tradition dating back centuries and because the unreliable English weather is generally better in the summer.
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The colorful parade of troops and horses in London, followed by an all-family appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony, is the most popular annual royal ceremony for tourists and Brits alike. Now the pandemic has shut the London extravaganza down again, for the second year in a row.
Instead, a much-reduced parade may take place in the quadrangle of Windsor Castle, as was arranged last year after the queen went into isolation at the castle in March.
Meanwhile, what will Her Majesty’s schedule look like as she enters her 95th year? It is likely to continue to be a mix of video appearances and a few important in-person appearances.
During the pandemic year, she has carried out her reduced schedule of engagements mostly by herself, since her husband retired in 2017. Now, with his death, senior members of her family, such as Prince Charles and his son, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, are expected to step in to support her.
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The most important upcoming engagement in her diary will be the State Opening of Parliament on May 11, the grand ceremony steeped in tradition and draped in ermine robes that the queen has missed only twice in her 69 years on the throne (both times for her last two pregnancies in the 1960s).
The government has confirmed the ceremony will go ahead but some aspects will be adjusted, including reduced ceremonial elements and attendees to account for the pandemic.
For all the years of her reign, the queen had been accompanied to the State Opening by Prince Philip, until he retired. Then Prince Charles accompanied her in the state coach to the Palace of Westminster, sitting beside her on a throne in the House of Lords.
There, she will address the House of Lords and the House of Commons, to deliver the Queen’s Speech, drafted by the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and outlining its future agenda for the legislative session.
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