The Queen beamed in the sunshine, tapping her feet to the music, as she celebrated her official birthday with a scaled back military procession at Windsor Castle.
Her Majesty, 95, sat in the castle’s quadrangle to watch the annual pomp and ceremony of Trooping the Colour, this year led by the Scots Guards.
It came just hours after she had returned to Windsor from Cornwall, where she met G7 leaders and posed for the traditional “family photo,” prompting chuckles as she quipped: “Are you supposed to look as if you’re enjoying yourself?”
On Sunday, she will host US President Joe Biden and his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, at the castle. They will watch a military march past before sitting down to tea.
The Queen, wearing a grey and lemon yellow outfit designed by Angela Kelly, was accompanied by her cousin, the Duke of Kent, Colonel of the Scots Guards, as she took the salute at her 69th birthday parade as sovereign.
Her Majesty the Queen
Credit: Eddie Mulholland
It was perhaps a bittersweet moment, the first such ceremony since the death of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, in April. The military last gathered on the grass at the castle for his funeral.
Last year, it was rumoured that the Duke had watched the pared down birthday spectacle from a window of the castle, where both he and the Queen had been isolating during the first lockdown.
Like last year, the wider Royal family were expected to watch the ceremony on Saturday from their homes.
Traditionally, they would appear en masse on the Buckingham Palace balcony following a military parade involving hundreds of servicemen and women through central London.
Before the Queen stepped out into the June sunshine, soldiers and musicians from the Massed Band of the Household Division marched onto the parade area.
Crowds gathered in Windsor Great Park to watch the spectacle, as the various regiments marched down the Long Walk and through the King George IV gate.
Soldiers enter the Quadrangle at Windsor Castle
Credit: Chris Jackson
The ceremony allowed the Guardsmen to show their precision marching skills whilst maintaining social distancing.
The military officer in charge of planning the parade had revealed that his aim was to create a "memorable and uplifting day" for the monarch.
Lt Col Guy Stone said: "Last year we had 85 on parade, this year we’ve got 274, plus 70 horses, so we’re really excited about the event having grown and getting us back to normal for next year we hope.
The Queen' s Colour of F Company Scots Guards troop in tnhe Quadrangle at Windsor
Credit: EDDIE MULHOLLAND
"It’s been very challenging, but we like a challenge. Covid has got a lot to answer for in so many ways, it’s made this difficult but what we want to do more than anything is give the Queen a memorable and uplifting day."
The spectacle featured soldiers who have supported communities and the NHS during the pandemic or served overseas on military operations.
From her dais, the Queen looked delighted as she watched the array of Guardsmen, mounted Troopers and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
The Colour, or ceremonial flag, being trooped past the soldiers was the Colour of the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards with the regiment’s F Company given the task of performing the honour.
They were joined by a massed band of the Household Division – musicians from all of the five Foot Guards Bands and the 1st Battalion Scots Guards Pipes and Drums.
Here’s the first iteration of the Trooping the Colour slideshow, hope to do an update later on
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Trooping the Colour 2021 in pictures: The Queen celebrates her official birthday at Windsor Castle
Trooping the Colour 2021 in pictures
A rare sight on the parade ground were two officers who were father and son. Colonel Jeremy Bagshaw, Chief of Staff at Army Headquarters London District, was stood close to the Queen’s dais while his 18-year-old son, 2nd Lieutenant Henry Bagshaw, Coldstream Guards, was formed up in front of the monarch.
A small handful of seated guests lined part of the quadrangle – unlike last year when only the military were present.
The ceremony ended with a 41-gun salute and a flypast by the Red Arrows, which brought a broad smile to the Queen’s face.
It was the second consecutive year that her official birthday was marked at Windsor Castle, rather than on Horse Guards, due to the pandemic.
Why does the Queen have two birthdays?
It had previously been held in Windsor in 1865, for Queen Victoria, when again, the Scots Guards were trooping their Colour.
The Queen has attended in every year of her reign, except 1955, when it was cancelled for the rail strike.