Equestrian performances, star appearances and the biggest street party ever are just some of the events to mark the British monarch’s milestone year
A portrait of the Queen from the 1950s
On 21 April 2016, Queen Elizabeth II lit the first in a chain of 1,000 beacons across Britain to mark her 90th birthday and the start of months of celebrations. Traditionally, British monarchs celebrate two birthdays: one on their actual day of birth, the other on an official date in the summer when the public can enjoy the festivities in the sun, providing the English weather plays its part. Our current Queen's official birthday, originally on a Thursday in June, was moved to a Saturday to allow more people to enjoy the event outside of working hours.
This year's milestone birthday, however, spread across several months, ensures there are plenty of opportunities to participate. A plethora of performances, parades and festivities will culminate in what is hailed to be the nation's ‘biggest street party' ever, the Patron's Lunch, held on The Mall outside Buckingham Palace.
Firing a gun salute in Hyde Park
The most spectacular event to take place will be a three-day-long theatrical extravaganza in the stunning grounds of Her Majesty's beloved home, Windsor Castle. Throughout the evenings of 12 to 15 May, the castle's gardens will be transformed into a vast stage for an impressive programme of music and drama, imagined and curated by the team behind the Royal Windsor Horse Show. While the precise details are being kept deliberately secret, it has been revealed that more than 900 horses and 1,500 participants will lead audiences on a journey from the Queen's birth in 1926, through World War Two, to her Coronation in 1953 and her more than 60 years on the throne, paying homage to her remarkable life and reign. The performances will illustrate the Queen's personal interests, in particular her love of horses, with creative displays by international equestrian teams and the Queen's mounted troops, as well as her public occupations and continued dedication to the Commonwealth.
A royal fan outside Windsor Castle
Broadcast live on television, the thousands of performing actors, dancers and musicians includes a long list of familiar faces, such as Oscar winner and Mandarin Oriental fan, Dame Helen Mirren, Dame Shirley Bassey, Alan Titchmarsh MBE and Gary Barlow. West End actor and singer James Fox will also take part alongside the two-time BAFTA nominee Amanda Redman MBE, Absolutely Fabulous star Jennifer Saunders and singer Kylie Minogue.
Special performances by the Royal Cavalry of the Sultanate of Oman, the New Zealand Army Band, the Fijian Armed Forces Band and Dancers, and 100 Military and Commonwealth Pipers will add to the diversity of spectacles, while rare archival footage will provide an intimate insight into the Queen's life and demonstrate the fascinating transformation of the country over the years.
The ceremonial pomp of Trooping the Colour, to be held on 11 June
Spectators will be worth watching, too. A member of the royal family dressed in their finery – it's all terribly British – will attend each night among the thousands of public visitors, and the Queen will be present on the final evening as the guest of honour. Let's all raise a glass to our longest-reigning monarch!