Oh, what a night! The Queen of England’s 90th Birthday Celebration, held in the grounds of Windsor Castle and broadcast live on British television last night, saw celebrity singers, members of The Royal Navy, Air Force, and Army, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and even the star power of actor Damian Lewis, OBE, and actress Dame Helen Mirren take a backseat to what Her Majesty really came to see: 900 horses and ponies of all sizes, shapes and breeds gathered to perform a celebratory trot, prance and gallop past the Royal reviewing stand.
The equine elite were accompanied by performers invited to take part in the show. They came from all corners of the globe and right down the road: The Oman Royal Cavalry, Chilean Huasos, Azerbijan acrobatic riders, and even Princess Anne and the Queen's grand-daughter, eventing star Zara Tindall, dressed in modest hunt hacking attire.
Absolutely Fabulous creator-comedian and horsewoman, Jennifer Saunders, played a role--and behaved herself, possibly because her pal Patsy was missing.
Last night's televised event was the culmination of a pageant held over four nights. It told the story of The Queen’s life from her birth in 1926, through the Second World War, to her Coronation in 1953 and a reign spanning more than 60 years--with no end forecast in the near future.
On Twitter this morning, British network ITV crowed: "The Queen's 90th Birthday Celebration...attracted an audience peak of 7.2m viewers & was the highest rating programme of the day." Also on Twitter, the event celebrated two successful hashtags: #HMQ90 (Her Majesty the Queen: 90) and, used more on Instagram, #Queenat90.
Here's a comprehensive video with highlights of more of the performances:
Those attending on Friday and Saturday had the pleasure of seeing some of Britain’s most well-regarded actors. Martin Clunes, OBE, star of the PBS series Doc Martin; Clunes is also president of the British Horse Society and hosts an annual horse show on his farm, where he enjoys owning two Clydesdales.
Downton Abbey actor Jim Carter, a.k.a. Mr. Carson the butler, joined Clunes.
But lest we forget, there was a horse show during the day, and the Queen's own horses were competing. Katie Jerram is the horse trainer who handles the pressure of exhibiting the Queen's horses under saddle (and sidesaddle, as well), including Barber Shop, one of the Queen's racehorses re-trained for showing. The word is that when one of the Royal horses won a class last week, the Queen was presented with a gift card to spend at a supermarket!
Here's a peek at Katie and some of the show horses a week ago:
And it's not only showing that interests the Queen; she is known for her Thoroughbred breeding and racing. Here's a short video highlighting The Sport of Queens:
The Queen's guest for the evening, seated to her right, was the King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain. Two endurance riders from his country finished in the top five of the Royal Windsor Endurance Ride 120km event during the week, along with three riders from the United Arab Emirates, including the winner, Ahmed Saif Al Mazroui of the UAE.
UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum attended the endurance event and was photographed with the Queen.
But it would be Jean-Francois Pignon's cheeky little Shetland pony among his Camargues who earned the biggest laugh. The British Horse Society found Pignon in the stable area rehearsing with his herd:
The show also featured a special performance by The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment Musical Ride and, representing North America, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Not to be forgotten: The Royal Cavalry(women) of Oman, The New Zealand Army Band, carriages from The Royal Mews, The South Australian Police Band, The Tenors, The Fijian Army Dancers and Band, 100 military and Commonwealth Pipers and horses of every size, color and description!
The show had the format of a pageant that clicked through highlights of the Queen's life, right down to a re-creation of one of her riding lessons with a stern instructor.
The Royal Windsor Horse Show took place on the grounds during the week--or tried to, since the beginning of the week was so rainy that the facility was declared flooded, and the show events for that day cancelled, even including the dress rehearsal for the pageant. But the weather eventually cleared and the sun came out, with a magnificent spring evening for the performance on Sunday.
The Canadians checked in with a video interview provided by the horse show:
The British Horse Society produced a video with interviews and stable shots of the trumpet, trooper and drum horses, as well as the preparation of the tack. The gray trumpeter's horse has a big stain on his withers that will require some work, find out how you clean up a royal horse:
The photos and videos here are only a few highlights of the event, which will be hard to top in the horse world.What fun to participate or be a spectator on such a special occasion.
Happy birthday, horse-extravaganza style!