At the stroke of noon, the crack of gunfire disturbed the autumn peace at the Museum Gardens in York.
The 70th birthday of the Prince of Wales had seen a morning rich in British pageantry, with York among 12 saluting stations across the country to proffer greetings in the most traditional fashion.
A marching display through the city by the Band of the King’s Division, led by Major Stewart Halliday, had been the overture. #
Then, as crowds gathered beneath the trees on the banks of the Ouse, the Saluting Troop from 329 Battery, 4 Regiment Royal Artillery, based at Alanbrooke Barracks in nearby Topcliffe, took their places.
As the clock struck, they began firing 21 rounds at 10 second intervals from three 105mm light guns.
The Royal Salute was hosted by 4th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters North East, with the senior officer present Col Andy Hadfield, their deputy commander. The inspecting officer was Col Colette MacDonald, of the Army education branch.
Simultaneously, in London’s Green Park, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery did the honours, while at the Tower of London, the Honourable Artillery Company fired a 62-gun royal salute and the bells of Westminster Abbey rung out in the Prince’s honour.
The tributes to the nation’s longest serving heir to throne had come from far and wide, carried by modern as well as ancient methods. The Welsh Guards at home and abroad recorded video messages for their Colonel. They came from serving troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, Chile and Canada.
The Royal Family itself wished Charles “a very Happy 70th Birthday” via Twitter, accompanied by a montage of photos of him through the years.
Charles had planned a working birthday, with a day of meetings scheduled at Clarence House before he and the Duchess of Cornwall left for their public engagements.
In the evening, the Queen threw him a private, formal party at Buckingham Palace, with European royals and Charles’s closest friends and family in attendance.
His nearest and dearest were already close by. In two family photographs released earlier, the Prince and Camilla were seen on a bench with his grandson Prince George, and granddaughter, Princess Charlotte. Standing behind were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with Kate holding Prince Louis, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
A fourth grandchild is due when Meghan gives birth next year.
Charles is beginning his eighth decade from a position of confidence, with his charitable work in full swing, and his sons forging their own public lives.
But the pictures, taken in the garden of Clarence House in September, offer a rare, candid glimpse at the Prince’s private life.