The Queen celebrated her 94th birthday in April but as per tradition she officially – and publicly – celebrated the day on the second Saturday of June as is done every year. This also marked her first official public appearance since lockdown began.
Traditionally the day is celebrated with Trooping the Colour, a splashy military parade during which the senior royals ride horse-drawn carriages through London and then gather on the Buckingham Palace balcony to watch RAF jets fly over. But this year, as has been the case with just about everything in life, things were different: Buckingham Palace announced in March that the parade would not go ahead “in its traditional form.”
Instead, a small number of soldiers and military musicians paid tribute to the monarch at Windsor Castle, where she moved in mid-March. The queen received a royal salute before watching a display by soldiers who marched on the castle grounds in accordance with social distancing rules.
The royal family tweeted that the Welsh Guards have been stationed at Windsor Castle throughout the pandemic. Later, they posted a few shots of the monarch enjoying her celebration on Twitter, along with a sped-up video of the military ceremony.
The Trooping the Colour parade in Whitehall is usually watched by thousands of spectators and senior members of the Royal Family. The last time the event was canceled was in 1955, three years after the Queen’s coronation, due to a national rail strike.
Queen’s birthday is also typically accompanied by the annual announcement of the Queen’s Birthday Honours’ List. However, this year she has agreed to postpone publication of the list to the autumn.
In a statement last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the delay “will allow us to ensure that the list, agreed before this public health emergency developed, reflects the Covid-19 effort, and comes at a time when we can properly celebrate the achievements of all those included”.
The Queen observed Saturday’s pared-back ceremony in the quadrangle of Windsor Castle from a dais and was given the royal salute by the troops. It was the first time the Queen has celebrated her official birthday at Windsor Castle. An event for a sovereign’s birthday has not been staged there since 1895, during the reign of Queen Victoria. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have spent the lockdown in isolation at Windsor Castle and were photographed there earlier this month to mark Prince Philip’s 99th birthday.
According to the Household Division army regiment, Trooping the Colour was first performed during the reign of King Charles II, who was on the throne, from 1660 to 1685. Later, in 1748, it was used to mark the birthday of the sovereign and it became an annual tradition when King George III took the throne in 1760.
Normally, Guardsmen stand shoulder-to-shoulder during their drills or when formed up on the parade ground, but on Saturday they stood 2.2m apart.
Despite isolating at the castle for the last three months, the elderly monarch has tried to remain visible, making a rare televised address to the nation in April and her debut on a digital platform this week in a video conference call. The Royal Opera Chorus also reunited online for the Queen’s official birthday.
Britain has been among the worst-hit countries in the world by COVID-19, with the number of suspected and confirmed deaths passing the grim milestone of 50,000 this week.