AFTER the fireworks and festivities that accompanied her last birthday, only the crack of a royal gun salute disturbed the peace of the Queen’s 91st celebrations today.
In lieu of a party, and in a gesture more suited to a teenager than a nonagenarian, she had earlier hosted a royal sleepover at Windsor Castle for the British astronaut, Tim Peake, and a few other guests - an event known in court circles as a “dine and sleep” evening.
Today, as the Queen continued her traditional, month-long “Easter Court” residence at Windsor, whatever presents she received remained under wraps.
The head of state is said to like practical gifts, but not overly extravagant ones. Her sons and daughter have apparently delighted her over the years with household items such as a washing-up apron and a casserole dish, while the Duchess of Cambridge once gave her some home-made chutney, made to her grandmother’s recipe.
“I was slightly worried about it, but I noticed the next day that it was on the table,” the Duchess said.
The Duke of York bought the Queen her first mobile phone, while former president Barack Obama once gave her an iPod.
Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born at 2.40am on April 21 1926, the first child of the then Duke and Duchess of York, at the Mayfair home of her mother’s parents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.
With the passing years have come milestones for the Queen. She became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, passing her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria’s record, in September 2015.
With the death of 88-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand last autumn, she is now the world’s longest reigning living monarch.
On February 6 this year, she became the first British sovereign to celebrate a Sapphire Jubilee, a reign of 65 years.
The Queen traditionally has two birthdays, her actual one and an official birthday marked in June by the Trooping the Colour ceremony.
The curious decision to give monarchs two birthdays dates back to Edward VII, who was born on November 9 but celebrated in May and June as the weather was better for outdoor events. Subsequent monarchs had birthdays at more convenient times of the year, but the Queen’s father, King George VI, reintroduced the tradition which she has continued.
• Guns thundered over North Yorkshire as the army celebrated the Queen’s birthday.
The firing of a 21-gun salute in York’s Museum Gardens was synchronized with the 41 volleys fired in Hyde Park by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
In York, the only saluting station in the north of England, crowds gathered ar the stroke of noon, as the saluting troop from 4th Regiment Royal Artillery began firing 21 rounds at 10-second intervals from three 105 mm light guns.
As the final shots echoed along the banks of the Ouse, the national anthem was played.
An hour later, the Honourable Artillery Company fired a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London - an extra 21 for the City of London.