Despite the excitement, it seems not everyone wants one of the hard to come by tickets for Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday celebrations. The world-famous Siena Palio horse race has turned down an invitation to attend the monarch’s party.
The horse race have stated that they won’t travel for anyone, Her Majesty included. The only time when organisers travelled with the medieval horse race featuring brightly clothed riders racing bareback through the centre of historic Siena was in 1938 when Mussolini summoned them to Florence to put on a show for a visit attended by Adolf Hitler.
Simon Brooks-Ward, owner, of Upmarket event organiser HPower who is known to be close with the Royal Family, attempted to have the Siena join in the horse-themed celebrations for the Queen’s milestone birthday.
Siena authorities were not impressed by the invitation, stating they would not permit a truncated, “circus-style” version at the birthday extravaganza in which “over 900 horses and more than 1,500 participants from around the United Kingdom and the world will create a joyful event for the Queen”.
Bruno Valentini, mayor of Siena spoke of how it would be hard to recreate the Palio atmosphere away from it’s traditional enclosed medieval town square. The 75-second slot was offered to Siena with just three horses and two riders, Valentini said that it would be like a “circus act” and “we had to say no”.
“If you want to see the Palio, you have to come to Siena to really appreciate it… and participate in some way in the rituals, because the Palio is not just about one minute and fifteen seconds of the race, but also the history,” he added.
He did, however, have another idea on how The Queen could see the race: “We invite Queen Elizabeth to come to Siena to see the Palio directly from the windows of our town hall.”
A spokeswoman for HPower Events, Jo Peck, confirmed that they had spoken with authorities in Siena saying that they had no plans to stage the entire race but were hoping to recreate a taste of the Palio pageantry.
“We did have discussions about hosting the Palio race and flag throwers. But these arrangements didn’t come off,” she said.
Other reports have suggested that it was the other way around and the British said no after Palio authorities were making too many demands.
Susanna Guarino, a Siena local said: “It was Queen Elizabeth who said no to the Palio, not the other way around.” She ridiculed the city’s authorities for the lost opportunity.
Palio races take place in the summer in medieval town centres across Italy. Starting in Feltre in the north-east, they move onto Siena where the races take place in July and mid-August.
The traditional races are under scrutiny by animal rights groups. Last summer, Siena saw the first large-scale protest by animal rights campaigners. Italy’s Anti-Vivisection League has said that 50 or more animals have died due to the Palio races since 1970.