LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II gave the best sign yet — with a smiling, steady and hand-clapping appearance at a royal horse show this weekend — that she plans to celebrate an unprecedented Platinum Jubilee year of the British monarchy with her public.
Just days after she missed the state opening of Parliament, one of the most important dates in the royal diary, the queen attended an equestrian extravaganza near Windsor Castle, and the crowd was delighted. Spectators at the celebrity-studded event at Windsor’s royal horse arena offered up a standing ovation at the close of chilly Sunday evening.
The queen, whose lifelong passion for horses is well known, seemed to be in high spirits as she, with cane in hand, entered the royal box for a spectacle called “A Gallop Through History.” The show traced British history through its two famous Elizabeths, Elizabeth I to the 96-year-old monarch, with rollicking horse events and appearances by Hollywood and British stars.
The queen was photographed clapping and grinning from ear to ear. The cheery demeanor, splashed across the British press on Monday, was in stark contrast to a recent and memorable image of her during the coronavirus pandemic, when she alone, dressed in black and masked, sat for the funeral of her late husband, Prince Philip.
On Sunday, the antics of more than 1,000 performers and 600 horses did wonders to buoy her mood.
The Daily Mail described the queen as “beaming in delight.” The Times of London said that the queen looked “full of life” and that the “secret was simple: horses.” At the end of the show, the queen took a victory lap around the open-air arena, waving to the crowd from her car. She was met with a standing ovation.
Celebrities including Tom Cruise, Damian Lewis and Helen Mirren were among the entertainers who greeted the queen in what was the first big event in a year-long celebration of her seven-decade reign.
Because of health troubles, the queen has made few public appearances in the past few months. The palace has said she has “mobility issues” and, in one video appearance, she has commented that her legs don’t move like they once did. Still, the queen carries out many royal duties virtually, from inside palace walls, or delegating to her heirs, Prince Charles and Prince William.
It is still not clear whether the great-grandmother on the throne will have the energy for all the events planned in the next few weeks.
The Platinum Jubilee has prompted a commercial rush of sentimentality for the monarch, with tea towels marking the dates, bone china tea cups bearing her visage, even music boxes tinkling “God Save the Queen” on sale at swanky central London shops such as Fortnum & Mason. The area around Buckingham Palace is now lined with bleachers in preparation for the impending pomp. In early June, a birthday parade and a nighttime concert will mark her reign; a special four-day weekend will spark street parties up and down the country. Expect a lot of Union Jack bunting and many pints raised.
This week, the queen was honored with a royal dessert from a “platinum pudding” contest that lured in 5,000 cooks and bakers. The winner is a lemon trifle, a sweet goo of Swiss roll, amaretti biscuits, whipped cream and fresh citrus, a quintessential British dessert. It now enters the lexicon of royal-inspired food dishes, which include coronation chicken and Victoria sponge.
The queen’s attendance at Sunday’s horse show, which lasted over two hours, was confirmed only at the last minute — the sort of decision-making that has become typical because of concerns over her health.
The comedian Omid Djalili, who heralded the event, welcomed her with a sly joke: “Your Royal Highness, on behalf of everyone here, we’d like to very humbly thank you for choosing us over the state opening of Parliament.”
The queen gave back what some called a cheeky wave.