Today marks the 95th birthday of Britain's longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
In the past, milestone birthdays such as this were celebrated publicly in Britain, but this year festivities have been curtailed in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the recent death of the queen’s husband, Prince Philip.
In a message shared on social media, the queen’s PR team said she will observe the occasion privately.
“This year The Queen remains at Windsor Castle during a period of Royal Mourning following the death of The Duke of Edinburgh.”
The queen normally spends her birthday with her family and there is usually a 41-gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21-gun salute in Windsor Great Park and a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London. These have been cancelled this year.
However, the queen generally has two birthdays each year: one on the day she was born and a second in the summer, on the second Saturday of June. The official celebration of the queen’s birthday in Britain takes place in June.
In a bid to ensure good weather for outdoor celebrations, this official birthday is dictated by a tradition dating from 1748. Over 300 years ago, King George II was born in November and wanted to celebrate outdoors with an annual military parade in the summer.
The Trooping the Colour parade usually marks her official birthday but that has also been cancelled this year. It is the third time in her reign that the parade has not gone ahead: it was cancelled in 1955 due to a national rail strike and in 2020, a modified version took place at Windsor Castle due to Covid-19.
The death of Prince Philip will no doubt have a deep effect on the queen, who has described him as her "strength and stay" during their 73-year marriage. Next year marks her platinum jubilee as queen, a milestone that has never been reached before by a British monarch.
Elizabeth’s reign has seen her travel the world extensively as part of her royal duties and a visit to Ireland 10 years ago at the invitation of then-President Mary McAleese is remembered fondly by the monarch. In May 2011, just one month after the wedding of her grandson Prince William to Kate Middleton, Elizabeth and Philip spent three days in Dublin and Kildare before travelling to Cashel, Co Tipperary and Cork city on their final day in the country.
After her visit to the English Market, she made an unscheduled walkabout along the Grand Parade, where she mingled with members of the public in the street. It was a visit she enjoyed greatly, with McAleese tellinglast year that Elizabeth described it as the “very best ever state visit” she had been on.
“She took off from Cork Airport after four amazing days, McAleese said. “The minute her plane touched down her deputy private secretary rang us immediately to say that she had said on the plane that it was her very best ever state visit. She was delighted, she was so happy.”
In a letter to President Michael D Higgins last month marking St Patrick’s Day, Elizabeth recalled the visit once more.
“This year marks ten years since my visit to Ireland, which I remember fondly, and marks a significant centenary across these islands,” she wrote.
“We share ties of family, friendship and affection, the foundation of our partnership that remains as important today as ten years ago.”