Sunday 23 October 2016

Thousands mark the queen's 90th birthday

Tom Rowley in London

Published 22/04/2016 | 02:30

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II greets well-wishers on her 90th birthday in Windsor, England; inset left: a royal fan waits in the crowd. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II greets well-wishers on her 90th birthday in Windsor, England; inset left: a royal fan waits in the crowd. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Gripping the roof of an open-top car with one hand as she and the Duke of Edinburgh toured the streets of Windsor, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II marked her birthday yesterday as she has spent much of the previous 90 years: waving to the crowds.

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With barely a wobble, the newly nonagenarian monarch and her 94-year-old husband stood upright as their Range Rover crawled through the streets.

They smiled when they spotted well-wishers in the crowds below offering bouquets, cards and yet more birthday cake.

They had already been offered a slice of the official cake, baked by Nadiya Hussain, who won the 'Great British Bake Off', at a reception in the town's Guildhall with 20 other 90-year-olds, whom the queen congratulated on being born in a "lovely vintage year".

Ms Hussain's orange drizzle sponge, which took a week to bake, received royal approval - not for its taste, but for how easy it was to slice, after the queen had struggled to cut a cake at a Women's Institute event last year.

Ms Hussain said the queen had explained to the duke who she was, telling him: "She won the baking show."

"Well, of course I know that," he replied.

"I just love their dynamic," said Ms Hussain afterwards. "Maybe they watch the show."

As the cake was presented, dignitaries began the day's third rendition of 'Happy Birthday', with the third line becoming the suitably formal "Happy birthday Your Majesty".

Earlier in the day, as the queen began her first engagement, a walkabout from Windsor Castle, the crowds had belted out their own affectionate but ever so slightly cheeky version: "Happy birthday dear Queenie".

The crowd of thousands, who stood a dozen deep, watched as the queen and the duke - a few paces behind, as ever - walked from her castle to the Guildhall, past the pub and the fish and chip shop.

It was a distance of only two yards for every year of her life and yet it took her half an hour, so assiduous was she in thanking the well-wishers who had begun to line the streets around the castle at 5am.

Waiting to greet her were a bevy of town criers with 16 ostrich feathers in each of their tricornes, an eight-year-old boy with a gift of eggs from his family's chickens - and even one of the puppets from 'War Horse'.

At one stage, the Duke of Edinburgh spotted a four-year-old boy holding a bunch of flowers.

He lifted the boy, Ethan Lynch, who had been waiting in the crowd for four hours with his mother, over a 3ft crowd barrier so he could hand the bouquet to the queen in person. Further along the street, the queen stopped to speak to two sisters, Judy and Anne Daley from Cardiff, who were each holding a garish pink balloon that formed the number 90.

They had faced disaster earlier in the day when the number nine floated off into the sky as they were giving a televised interview but a local shopkeeper quickly donated a replacement.

"The queen was killing herself laughing," said Anne. "She must have seen it on TV. She was really lovely."

At the foot of Castle Hill, she unveiled a plaque showing a map of a new walkway through the town, whisking away the heavy red cloth as two trumpeters played a fanfare.

"She was terribly happy with the beautiful weather and the lovely occasion," said Hugo Vickers, the historian who championed the walkway.

"She said it was a lovely day."

Her sentiments were widely shared.

"Mission accomplished," declared Alan Clements, a 70-year-old retired bank manager who had driven from Plymouth for the occasion.

"We said we had to make the effort. If we could get a glimpse that would be brilliant and if we could get a photograph, that would be a bonus."

In the event, Mr Clements had a wonderful view and could fill an album with his snaps. He still remembers the last time he saw the queen in person, when she visited Solihull when he was 14.

Also in the crowd was Elizabeth Roberts, a deaf 86-year-old in a wheelchair, who came with her son, John. "I booked this in October," said Mr Roberts. "My mother loves the queen - she is the grandmother of the country. She has been so dutiful."


Before returning to the Castle, she met the 90-year-olds, including Peggy Curtis from nearby Sunningdale, in a smart pink jacket for the occasion.

Ms Curtis said afterwards: "You do less when you're 90 but it doesn't seem to worry her. I couldn't walk about all day like she has done. She inspires you to try to keep going yourself."

Shortly after 7pm the queen, now wearing a headscarf, stood outside the gates of Windsor Castle and lit the first in a chain of 1,000 beacons that burned across the country to celebrate her birthday.

Her final duty of the day over, she retired back inside for a private family get-together, with 60 guests dining in the Waterloo Chamber, hosted by her eldest child, the Prince of Wales. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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