BOTH are called Elizabeth and both were born on the same day, but two women who turn 90 on Thursday are celebrating in very different ways.
While Queen Elizabeth II will mark her birthday with a walkabout in front of crowds of well-wishers in Windsor followed by an anniversary dinner in a castle, Elizabeth E, who does not want to reveal her full name, will tuck into a birthday cake brought to her by a volunteer from the charity Independent Age.
Elizabeth, who lives in West Yorkshire, is a big fan of the monarch and has keenly followed her namesake’s life and reign. She spoke of how pleased she was to have been born on the same day as the sovereign.
“Sharing my birthday with the Queen makes it a special occasion each year,” she said.
Elizabeth is visited by her Independent Age volunteer Jacoba Oldham at least once a fortnight to help her to feel less lonely. She has been unable to leave her sheltered housing flat since a fall in the autumn.
When she was born on April 21 1926, her father wrote to Princess Elizabeth’s father the Duke of York, who became George VI, and Elizabeth has continued this tradition by writing to the Queen on some of their shared birthdays.
In April 1986, on their 60th birthdays, the Queen’s Lady in Waiting replied to wish Elizabeth a happy birthday, and for their 80th birthday celebrations, Elizabeth received a card from the Queen herself, which said: “I’m pleased to know that you celebrate your 80th birthday on 21 April 2006 and I send my warmest wishes on this shared occasion.”
Elizabeth cannot remember what she did at the time of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, but she watched the Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977 and the Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002 on television.
“Memories fade into the background as you get older. It’s difficult to remember everything that’s happened,” she said.
She was born at home and, like the Queen, had one sister. Her favourite meal as a child was roast beef for Sunday lunch with Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings.
At the end of the Second World War, she worked in the Royal Observer Corps, which involved plotting aircraft and tracking their position - information which was used to issue air raid warnings, while Princess Elizabeth joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1945, and trained as a driver and mechanic.
While Princess Elizabeth wed at 21 and went on to have four children, Elizabeth E wed in her late thirties and did not have children, but helped to look after her sister’s three children. She was married to her husband, who died over a decade ago, for around 40 years. The Queen has been married to the Duke of Edinburgh for more than 68 years.
Elizabeth worked as a local government officer and was a secretary to the school meals department.
While the Queen remains monarch after 64 years and is still carrying out engagements as she prepares to become a nonagenarian, Elizabeth retired 30 years ago and now spends much of her time sewing and knitting.
She is currently knitting an outfit for her great-great niece, who was born just two weeks ago.
Speaking about becoming 90, Elizabeth said: “I have great-nieces who visit me, but they’re so busy I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like. I’m hoping my great-niece will bring her two-week old baby to visit soon.
“Old age can be lonely, especially when you’re less mobile than you used to be. The worst thing about being almost 90 is that I can’t meet other people like I used to because I haven’t been able to leave my flat since my fall.
“That’s why having a volunteer visitor like Jacoba is a lifeline, because it means I have a visit to look forward to at least every fortnight. We have a good old chat about the past and present and it’s great to have someone to share stories with.”
Elizabeth has been trying to keep active and is already able to walk around her flat and hopes to be able to go outside again soon.
Independent Age has around 1,500 volunteers across the UK, and helps retired people with advice and information services, as well regular face-to-face or telephone support for those who are lonely or isolated.
Elizabeth spoke of her admiration for the monarch: “I like her because she thinks about other people and treats other people well, no matter what their background.”
She added: “I think she’s a very good queen - she’s accommodating to everybody and always knows when to say and do the right thing, which doesn’t happen so often these days.”