This article first appeared (see below) in the Cape Argus (Cape Town, South Africa) on Friday 22 April – reported by myself as a Special Correspondent on 7 April 2016
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll turned 90 and I was there! England’s longest reigning Monarch and its first nonagenarian (new word for me, meaning a person who is aged between 90 and 99) Sovereign was honoured with great fanfare and adulation throughout the United Kingdom yesterday, with the entire country paying tribute in one way or the other. In the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in particular, where the Queen was present during this milestone occasion, it was buzzing as thousands of excited Britons and tourists, who had already begun streaming into the area the day before, lined the streets and pressed against the barricades, determined to catch a glimpse of Her Majesty and the Royal Party.
It’s quite something being caught up in a Monarchy- mad crowd that oozes Royalist pride and adoration (I must say, I was quite envious of all that patriotism, something I am lacking in SA right now!) From the smallest toddler to teens and elderly senior citizens pushing their equally aged dogs in prams, all have this passion for the Royal Family and they hold to traditions that run very deep. I’ve never been too interested in it but my Windsor moment changed all that and now I understand it so much more and really admire it.
Windsor Castle, established around 1071, is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world, and has been the family home of British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years. It is a fully functioning palace and an official residence of Her Majesty The Queen, whose standard flies from the Round Tower whenever she is present.
The buildup to the first sighting of HM The Queen and Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh began with the Coldstream Guard Brass Band leading the procession, preceding her limousine as it exited the Advance Gate of Windsor Castle at midday on the dot. The designated car was a classic Bentley that inched its way down Castle Hill and stopped a short way down to allow Her Majesty to alight with the Prince, and to meet and greet the Mayor of Windsor, Eileen Quick and the Reverend Quick. HM The Queen was dressed in a light lime green outfit on the day with a signature matching hat, and the Prince, was, as always, elegant and dapper in a finely cut suit. They proceeded to walk down the Hill with their entourage and with a group of cadets flanking Her to accept the endless offerings of flowers and gifts. People sang Happy Birthday, clapped and cheered and the band stationed at the Henry Vll Gate kept up the festive atmosphere, looking fabulously handsome in their bright red and black uniforms. My only concern here is that those tll black ‘busby’ hats are made of bearskin-I am desperately hoping they will be phased out asap in favour of faux fur: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/spending-british-armys-bearskin-hats-7180252.
At the foot of Castle Hill Her Majesty unveiled an information plaque and officially launched The Queen’s Walkway, a new 6.3km route signed by 63 plaques marking the Queen’s historic 63-year reign when she became the longest serving monarch on 9 September 2015.
The Royal Couple also met a small group of elderly locals who celebrate their 90th birthdays this year and after that they departed the Guildhall in the State Review Vehicle, driving down Peascod Street on the way back to Windsor Castle, graciously waving and acknowledging the support of the crowds. I’m convinced she looked straight at me and gave me a special wave!
The traditional 21-gun salute took place on the vast lawns of the Long Walk at precisely 2:30pm, fired off miniature canons. When I say miniature I mean tiny little canons that looked like toys. The bang they delivered belied their size-I nearly had a cardiac arrest on the spot! The event, introduced by the Town Crier Chris Brown, was attended by Mayor Quick who set off the first canon, with a group of children lighting the rest under the watchful eye and careful instruction of bombardier John Matthews.
And as evening fell, Her Majesty, accompanied by The Duke and The Duchess of Cornwall, lit a beacon at Cambridge Gate, in Windsor Great Park. This set in motion the lighting of more than 1,000 beacons across communities and towns all over the country and worldwide, in churches, on farms, country parks, village greens, lighthouses and on country estates.
Queen Elizabeth ll is Head of the Commonwealth of Nations comprising 53 member states, including South Africa, the aims of which include the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multilateralism, and world peace. The 2.3 billion people in the member states account for almost a third of the current world population. The Queen’s reign has also seen 12 Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and 12 US presidents, with Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower being the first respectively.
The Queen has a second “official” birthday on Saturday 11 June, when the spectacular Trooping of the Colour will take place. Traditionally, official celebrations to mark a sovereign’s birthday have been held on a day other than their actual date of birth. Her birthday celebrations will continue throughout May, June and July with several highly anticipated events such as the spectacular Royal Windsor Horse Show, and will be commemorated for posterity on everything from tea cups, to stamps, champagne labels, pens and other paraphernalia. For more information on the various planned event visit https://www.royal.uk/
Her Majesty the Queen is now as popular as ever. In a poll released in the UK on 15 April, it was revealed that up to 75% of Britons support keeping the Monarchy, many of them youngsters,all of whom are opposed to The Queen retiring.
So, as millions did around the globe on that big day, I wished Her Majesty a blessed Happy Birthday and may She enjoy a superb year ahead. As I’ve always wanted to say, “God Save The Queen!”
This trip was courtesy of Visit Britain.
FYI: I was invited on this trip by Lloyd Orr Communications on behalf of VisitBritain
The article as it appeared in the Cape Argus, first and second editions>