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The Duke of EdinburghThe Queen

Royals attend final night of Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations

The Queen and Prince Philip enjoyed a spectacular finale to Her Majesty’s 90th Birthday Celebrations tonight, joining members of their family in the private grounds of Windsor Castle.

Arriving in the Scottish State Coach, The Queen, wearing in a sea green dress by Angela Kelly, and the Duke of Edinburgh, in his resplendent Windsor Uniform, both looked in fine form as they smiled throughout the 90-minute celebration, telling the story of her life and record-breaking reign.

Prince Charles, who hosted the celebrations with his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, wrote in the official programme saying: “As Patron of The Queen’s 90th Birthday Celebration, I am delighted that we have succeeded in bringing together hundreds of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and other long-standing overseas friends to mark this special Birthday.

It could not be more fitting that a quite different group which also enjoys The Queen’s unfailing interest and support – horses, of myriad breeds and colour – will join the 600 sailors, soldiers, airmen and women who make up this evening’s celebration. As we marvel at the incomparable skill of rider and horse alike, we might allow our minds to drift to Xenophon’s observation that “A horse is a thing of beauty … None will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendour.” We can know with some certainty that a rather memorable spectacle awaits.

“I can only offer my warmest thanks to all the participants, performers and volunteers taking part in this evening’s Celebration. And I hope you will join me in wishing my mother, The Queen, the happiest of very special birthdays.”

The celebration was awash with royal attendees with most senior members of the family present. The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry both wore the Windsor Uniform and the Duchess of Cambridge donned a white Dolce and Gabbana dress covered with a red Zara blazer. The Duchess of Cornwall wore an elegant cream dress and embroidered coat by Fiona Clare.

The night even saw several royal cameos with Princess Anne, the Earl of Wessex and his daughter Lady Louise riding three of The Queen’s horses. They were joined by Anne’s daughter and Her Majesty’s granddaughter Zara Tindall, who rode her retired eventing horse, Toytown.

Alongside the British royals, the King of Bahrain, Prince Donatus of Hesse and his wife, the Langravine of Hesse, were all welcomed to the Royal box. The Prince’s father was Queen Elizabeth’s third cousin.

Over the 90-minute show, 900 horses and more than 1,500 participants from around the UK and across the world helped to relive some of the defining moments of The Queen’s life, from the excitement of her birth, through to World War Two, her marriage and coronation.

The event took place in Windsor Castle’s private grounds in a purpose-built arena, used by Royal Windsor Horse Show during the day. Before the evening’s entertainment began, tractors worked tirelessly for over an hour to brush the sand into an immaculate state.

Earlier in the day, The Queen had watched a number of the performances at the Horse Show, presenting a series of awards. The stunning setting is the only time of the year that the public are allowed into the grounds and provides fantastic views of the Castle lit-up at night.

Over 4000 people have watched the Birthday Celebration events from the stands over the four nights and tonight’s show saw millions of TV viewers tune in during a special live broadcast by ITV.

Hosts Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, who are best known for hosting Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and Britain’s Got Talent, were joined by stars of the stage and screen.

Take That singer, Gary Barlow, who organised the Queen’s successful 2012 Diamond Jubilee Concert, kicked off the show with a performance of his song Something About This Night. 

Downton Abbey star Jim Carter and his wife Imelda Staunton both helped celebrate the Queen’s childhood years, with Carter narrating and Staunton singing. Before the performance, Carter said he was “thrilled to be asked to play a part in the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations” and alluded to the use of Shetland ponies which raced through the arena tonight in their own Grand National, ridden by young members of the Pony Club.

Dame Helen Mirren, who played Her Majesty in both the 2006 film, The Queen, and the 2013 play, The Audience, wore a green sequin dress as she narrated the Queen’s teenage years during the show, before classical singer Katherine Jenkins performed ‘I Vow To Thee My Country’, wearing a royal blue column gown.

The celebration also told the story of some of The Queen’s more personal memories and hobbies, as gardening personality, Alan Titchmarsh, talked the audience through Her Majesty’s estates and her love of horses, family, dogs and the countryside.

One of the stars of the show was horse-whisperer Jean Francois Pignon, whose tricks with a bright white pony garnered adoration from the audience.

The event was organised by the same team that staged the successful 2012 Diamond Jubilee Pageant in Windsor, and saw a strong use of technology throughout. Video projections, LED effects and theatrical lighting were all used bring the story to life.

The event saw military units from around the world lend their support including The Oman Royal Cavalry, Chilean Huasos, The New Zealand Army Band, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, The Azerbaijani Dancers and Karabakh Horses and Riders, State Carriages from The Royal Mews, The South Australian Police Band, The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, The Fijian Army Dancers and Band, 100 Military and Commonwealth Pipers and The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.

A full orchestra provided the music and narrative for the celebration, which has seen members of the public pay up to £160 per ticket to sit next to the Royal Enclosure. A strict dress code was in operation for those sitting in The Queen’s stand with gentleman expected to don their suits and ties and ladies expected to wear skirts, dresses or smart trousers.

For those not lucky enough to secure a ticket to one of the shows, organisers held a pre-performance party on The Long Walk outside Windsor Castle. Earlier this year, 5,000 free tickets were made available through a ballot and crowds were in with a chance of seeing celebrities arriving on the red carpet, before watching the final live performance on giant pop-up screens.

The celebration has not been without its hiccups, however. On Wednesday, the preview evening had to be cancelled by organisers following continuous heavy rain. The performance, designed to let the cast rehearse in a lifelike scenario, was set to be staged in front of a live audience and saw hundreds of people disappointed as they lost their tickets to see the show.

The celebrations will continue next month with the annual Trooping the Colour on 11 June and culminate with the Patron’s Lunch on 12 June, when 10,000 guests will take to the Mall in London to join the country’s largest-ever street party and picnic.

About author

James is Royal Central's Director of Broadcasting and Communications. He's a recognised royal commentator and correspondent and has experience with numerous TV and radio networks including the BBC, ITV, Sky, CNN and MSNBC among others.