21 April 2019

The Queen's Birthday Celebrations at Windsor (1969)

Keystone Pictures USA/ZUMAPRESS/Alamy

As the Queen marks her 93rd birthday at Windsor today, we've got a look back at the way she celebrated her birthday at the castle half a century ago...

The Queen's 43rd birthday portrait, taken at Buckingham Palace by Cecil Beaton in 1969 (Keystone Pictures USA/ZUMAPRESS/Alamy)

The Associated Press reported that, on her 43rd birthday, the Queen remained "unmarked by the tides of change sweeping her troubled" nation -- a reference to the Troubles in Northern Ireland -- adding that there were "spreading laughter lines around her blue eyes" but no grey in her hair. To mark her birthday, a series of new portrait photographs of the Queen were taken by Cecil Beaton in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace. In the images, the Queen wore a turquoise evening gown and jewels, including the Vladimir Tiara and Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee Necklace. The AP described the diadem as "a pearl and diamond tiara which was bought by Queen Mary from the family of the Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia in 1921," and additional press captions noted that the necklace "was presented to Queen Victoria at the time of the building of the Albert Hall." (More on the tiara here, and on the necklace here.) For fans of furniture, the press also helpfully reported that "the settee with the carved frame is English, of the Regency period."

The Queen attends a return banquet hosted by President Saragat during the Italian state visit, April 1969 (KEYSTONE Pictures USA/Alamy)

On her birthday then, as she is today, the Queen was at Windsor Castle. The AP reported that she spent that Monday morning working "with government papers delivered in locked red dispatch boxes," with a focus on learning "a short welcoming speech for the visit to Windsor Castle by Italian President Giuseppe Saragat," which began the following day. Saragat was feted with a state banquet at Windsor Castle on April 22 -- the Queen wore the Vladimir Tiara -- and he later hosted a return banquet. The image above shows the Queen and Saragat on that occasion; you'll note that she wore Queen Alexandra's Kokoshnik with the Coronation Necklace and Earrings. (She's also wearing the collar and sash of Italy's Order of Merit of the Republic.)

The Queen wears a wreath-style brooch in a formal portrait photograph with Prince Charles, taken in April 1969 at Windsor Castle (Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Work gave way to celebrations in the afternoon, with an "intimate birthday lunch" attended by "relatives and the Queen's few close friends." Later on, at teatime, she shared a birthday cake with her two youngest children, nine-year-old Prince Andrew (who was granted a few hours' leave from his nearby boarding school, Heatherdown, for the occasion) and five-year-old Prince Edward. (Prince Charles was away in Wales, studying at Aberystwyth ahead of his investiture that July, while Princess Anne was at the Badminton Horse Trials.) Also of note: camera were still filming footage for the famous Royal Family documentary during her birthday celebrations in 1969.

The Queen rides Burmese during Trooping the Colour in London, June 1969 (AFP/Getty Images)

In London, flags were flown and gun salutes were fired to mark the Queen's birthday celebrations, but as usual, the public festivities were saved for Trooping the Colour in June, when the weather is nicer. On that occasion, she rode in her annual birthday parade. That May, she'd been given a new horse, Burmese, by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Starting in 1969, the Queen rode Burmese for Trooping the Colour for eighteen consecutive years. After Burmese retired in 1986, the Queen opted to attend the event in a carriage rather than having to have a new horse trained for the role. (Learn about the brooch she usually wears for Trooping the Colour here!)