THE British royal family has celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s 92nd birthday with a spectacular military parade through the streets of London and a gathering on the Buckingham Palace balcony.
New royal bride Meghan the Duchess of Sussex joined the family on the balcony for the first time, along with her husband Prince Harry, the Queen, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Prince William and his wife Catherine, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and Princess Anne and their families.
The Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, who has retired from public life, was absent. He will celebrate his 97th birthday today. Tiny Prince Louis, born in April to Prince William and Catherine, was also not there.
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Louis’ older siblings Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, 3, had a balcony view for the fly-past by 23 aircraft from the Royal Air Force. Princess Charlotte stole the show by smiling, waving and applauding the aircraft as they thundered overhead.
The rare gathering of almost the entire royal family on the balcony — a tradition which goes back to 1914 — came at the conclusion of the annual Trooping the Colour parade, a centuries-old ceremony marking the birthday of the sovereign.
Featuring 1400 parading soldiers from the royal household divisions, 200 horses and 400 musicians, the annual Trooping the Colour parade dates back at least 260 years and is a marvellous display of British royal pomp and pageantry.
Black, grey and white horses, military guards including the Cold Stream and Irish guards in their elaborate dress uniforms and tall fur hats and two enormous drum horses bearing kettle drums and riders took part in the ceremony, which included a 41-gun salute.
Tens of thousands of people lined the streets around Buckingham Palace to watch the royal family members make their way in carriages along The Mall to the Horse Guards parade ground on a glorious spring day.
The Queen, dressed in a powder-blue ensemble and hat with flowers on the brim, inspected the troops and received a royal salute during the two-hour ceremony.
The sprightly sovereign, who ditched the sunglasses she has been wearing since she underwent surgery a month ago to remove a cataract from her eye, stood unaided for much of the ceremony.
A daughter, wife, mother and grandmother of men who have seen active duty in the armed forces, Queen Elizabeth also served in uniform in World War II and has a deep affection for the armed forces.
Huge cheers went up as Prince Harry and Meghan, who were married on May 19 at Windsor, made their way to the parade.
Four royals attended the parade on horseback in full dress uniform in their capacity as royal colonels — Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Andrew, and Princess Anne the Princess Royal.
Others royals who attended were Prince Edward’s wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, who travelled in a carriage with her daughter Lady Louise, and Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice, the daughters of Prince Andrew.
Meghan will undertake her first official engagement with the Queen next week when she joins Her Majesty on the royal train for a visit to Cheshire, in northwest England.
The British media is reporting neither Prince Harry, nor Prince William and Catherine, have travelled on the royal train before, so the invitation from the Queen is considered a mark of her high regard for Meghan.
The royal pair will open a theatre and science discovery centre after journeying overnight from London on Wednesday.
The Queen, who has refused to retire despite her advancing years, has upped her workload even further this year, doing 25 per cent more engagements and appearances than for the same period last year, according to royal observers Write Royalty.
It comes despite her undergoing surgery in early May to have a cataract removed from her eye.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “I can confirm that the Queen successfully underwent a short planned procedure to treat a cataract last month.’’
Write Royalty, analysing details from the Court Circular, the official diary of the royal family, said the queen had conducted 125 engagements from January to the end of May.
This was 25 per cent up on the same period for the previous year, when she had been unwell with a heavy cold.
The research also showed the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, continued to up his work rate, undertaking 85 engagements in the month of May alone.