LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, turns 90 today, and to mark the milestone, a series of special events is taking place — including lunch with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama — over the next few days and months.
Every year, the queen celebrates two birthdays: the actual one on April 21 — always a private event — and her official birthday, which will be marked this year on June 11, when the Trooping the Colour parade takes place in London. This year, because of her 90th, there will also be a ticketed picnic for the public on June 12.
Today she is set to join the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in lighting the principal beacon at Windsor Castle for the first time since her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.
About 1,000 counties across the U.K. take part in the tradition, which involves lighting a bonfire as a way of paying respect to the monarch.
She also plans to unveil a plaque at the Queen’s Walkway, a 3.9 mile road in Windsor with 63 points of interest representing her 63-year reign, walk the path and greet the public. A 41-gun salute was planned in Hyde Park, in addition to a 62-gun salute at Tower Hill and bells at Westminster Abbey.
In the evening, the Prince of Wales will host a birthday party at Windsor Castle, while on Friday the monarch will meet with the Obamas for dinner at the castle.
Earlier this week, she paid a visit to the Royal Mail Windsor delivery office where she and the Duke of Edinburgh met with the postmen and women to mark the 500th anniversary of the postal service. The post office released a new series of celebratory stamps.
Three exhibitions reflecting the Queen’s style will be mounted in her honor in as many royal residences: The Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Buckingham Palace in London and Windsor Castle in Windsor.
“Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style From The Queen’s Wardrobe,” is the name of all three exhibitions and the largest display of her royal ensembles to date, with more than 150 outfits including dresses, jewelry and accessories. Designers include Norman Hartnell, Hardy Amies and Ian Thomas.
The first to open is the Holyroodhouse display, which explores tartan in royal dress. “The origin of tartan, how it is being worn for different formal and informal occasions, and how it continues to be worn today” are among the themes, according to senior curator of decorative arts Caroline de Guitaut.
“It features tartans that are personal to the Queen, and some were designed for the royal family by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria and still worn by the royal family today. That’s the Balmoral Tartan. There’s a wonderful kilt belonging to the Queen from the early Fifties, which was worn together with a beautiful tweed jacket by Hartnell. It was very elegant and very typical of the Queen’s daytime look when she’s in Scotland.”
London’s Berkeley Hotel, meanwhile, is marking the milestone with an ode to tea time. As part of its ongoing Prêt-à-Portea project, it has created The Royal Collection. Biscuits and other sweet treats are shaped like hats, jewels and bags worn by the Queen and the royal family.
The Royal Mint has released a commemorative five-pound coin designed by Christopher Hobbs. The coin features nine roses for each decade of the Queen’s life, along with a crown and a wreath of laurel leaves that symbolize England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“The Birthday Crown” is a 32-page tale of the Queen’s search for a crown to wear for her birthday. While preparing for her day, she looks to her royal staff for suggestions on a regal headpiece. But it is two-year old Prince George who saves the day with a paper crown that he created himself.