Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 91st birthday on April 21, 2017, with the world’s longest-reigning monarch taking a step back from royal duties to allow the younger generation to step forward. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / LEON NEAL
Britain marked the 91st birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, with the world’s longest-reigning monarch. / AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 91st birthday on April 21, 2017, with the world’s longest-reigning monarch taking a step back from royal duties to allow the younger generation to step forward. / AFP PHOTO / ANDRE FORGET
Britain started a weekend of events to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh along with other members of the royal family will attend a national service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on June 10, which is also the Duke of Edinburgh’s 95th birthday. / AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 91st birthday on April 21, 2017, with the world’s longest-reigning monarch taking a step back from royal duties to allow the younger generation to step forward. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / PETER NICHOLLS
Queen Elizabeth II has cancelled her departure on December 21, 2016 for a Christmas trip to her country estate because she and her husband have “heavy colds”, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said. The 90-year-old monarch and her 95-year-old husband Prince Philip had been expected to travel from London as part of a yearly tradition. / AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS
/ AFP PHOTO / BUCKINGHAM PALACE / Annie Leibovitz /
JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
The sound of a gun salute tore through central London on Friday to celebrate the 91st birthday of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, with the world’s longest-reigning monarch taking a step back from royal duties to allow the younger generation to step forward.
To mark the occasion the BBC opened its morning news broadcast with the national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” while the country’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson took to Twitter.
“Hip hip hooray for The Queen,” he wrote, adding “happy birthday Ma’am!”
This year’s celebrations are a notably more low-key affair after a year of festivities to mark her hitting 90.
A thousand beacons were lit around the country on April 21, 2016, and other events last year included street parties and a pageant at her Windsor Castle home.
“I’m still alive,” the Queen joked in June during a visit to Northern Ireland, one of the numerous engagements filling the royal calendar.
But the ever-popular monarch has begun handing over duties to other royals, standing down as patron of 25 bodies at the end of last year, including the Wimbledon tennis championships.
While her eldest child Prince Charles is heir to the throne, greater attention has fallen on his two sons William and Harry, who have taken on some of the Queen’s duties.
The arrival of Prince William and his wife Kate’s two children — Prince George and Princess Charlotte — has cemented the country’s positive view of the royal family.
Prince Harry is also admired, receiving widespread acclaim this week for speaking out about seeking counselling years after his mother’s death when he was a child.
– Reforming the royals –
The Queen was instrumental in bringing the royals into modern times, after ascending to the throne in 1952 as Britain’s empire was in sharp decline.
“My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service,” she said in a speech to mark her 21st birthday, years before starting her reign.
One of the most testing periods for the monarch came during the 1990s. The Queen dubbed 1992 her “annus horribilis” after the marriages of three of her four children broke down and Windsor Castle was badly damaged in a fire.
Five years later she faced the wrath of the British public when Princess Diana died and the Queen chose to stay at her estate in Scotland rather than return to London.
Buckingham Palace has since been careful to avoid such clashes with the Queen’s subjects.
She has remained quiet about political issues such as the divisive Brexit referendum and, in January, Prime Minister Theresa May’s controversial decision to invite US President Donald Trump for a state visit.
In modernising her family’s image and refusing to become political, the Queen has held on to the nation’s affection. While generally in good health, she suffered a cold over Christmas and her recovery was watched anxiously.
Despite being followed closely in her public appearances — feeding an elephant at a British zoo this month, for example — she has succeeded in keeping life behind palace doors relatively secret.
While her love of horses and Corgis is well publicised, palace insiders have revealed that the Queen’s private pastimes include crossword puzzles and a Dubonnet-and-gin cocktail before lunch.