In the land of my birth, everybody is very excited about celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s official 90th birthday this weekend.
Although the British Queen was born on April 21, 1926, and there were celebrations in April, Her Majesty the Queen celebrates two birthdays every year.
This British tradition dates back to 1748, when the annual summer military cavalcade became a celebration of the king, as well as the armed forces — even though George II’s birthday was in October. Official celebrations to mark a sovereign’s birthday have often been held on a day other than the actual birthday, particularly when the real birthday has not been in the summer. King Edward VII, for example, was born on Nov. 9, but his official birthday was marked throughout his reign in the early 1900s in May or June, when there is a greater likelihood of good weather in the U.K.
Queen Elizabeth was not expected to be queen when she was born. Her father, George, was the younger of the two sons of King George V. Therefore, Princess Elizabeth spent most of her early years enjoying a quiet family life. 1936, when her grandfather King George V died, her uncle came to the throne as King Edward VIII. However, before the end of that same year, in one of the biggest scandals in British history, King Edward VIII abdicated his throne so he could marry a divorced American woman, Wallis Simpson. Princess Elizabeth’s father therefore unexpectedly acceded to the throne as King George VI. On his death in 1952, Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, at just 25 years old, became Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and head of the Commonwealth.
Back to her official birthday celebrations: A highlight of the day is the Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour (we do spell it with a "u"). Trooping the Colour is carried out by fully trained and operational military troops from the Household Foot Guards and Cavalry in Whitehall, London. During the ceremony, the Queen is greeted by a royal salute and carries out an inspection of the troops. After the various military bands have performed a musical "troop," the escorted regimental colour (flag) is carried down the ranks.
After the Trooping of the Colour, the royal family will appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London to watch a military fly-by. On Sunday, a street party for 10,000 guests will take place on The Mall in London with her grandsons, Princes William and Harry, acting as joint presidents of the event. There will also be many street parties around the U.K. and wall-to-wall TV coverage of the celebrations.
Queen Elizabeth is an amazing woman. Even at 90, she works a full schedule of events, has been the adviser and confidant to 12 prime ministers, and is the longest reigning monarch in British history. She loves horses, corgis and dorgis (both small dog breeds) and, despite employing 1,200 people, she still feeds her own dogs every day.
I leave you with words from the great lady herself before her 1952 coronation: "Pray that God may give me the wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making and that I may faithfully serve him and you, all the days of my life."
Happy birthday, Your Majesty, and God bless America!
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