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Queen's 90 years marked with pageant featuring horses and showbiz stars

Published 15/05/2016

Anthony McPartlin (left) and Declan Donnelly aka Ant and Dec, who have promised a spectacular evening of entertainment, ahead of the televised celebration of the Queen's 90th birthday.
Anthony McPartlin (left) and Declan Donnelly aka Ant and Dec, who have promised a spectacular evening of entertainment, ahead of the televised celebration of the Queen's 90th birthday.

The Queen's life was celebrated with a spectacular equine themed show featuring stars of stage and screen who performed in honour of her 90 years.

In the grounds of Windsor Castle - said to be the monarch's favourite home - the Queen's celebration was marked with a majestic displays of famous horse troupes, both military and civilian, from across the globe and other performances featuring four-legged animals.

Her family joined her in the royal box for the two-hour show, televised live by ITV, led by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and a number of minor royals.

Among the famous faces who were due to perform in honour of the Queen were Kylie Minogue, Dame Helen Mirren and Dame Shirley Bassey with Geordie duo Ant and Dec hosting the show.

The Queen celebrated her 90th birthday on April 21, and Charles wished his mother "the happiest of very special birthdays" writing in the official programme to mark the event, the culmination of the annual Windsor Horse Show.

Charles also paid tribute to the Queen's passion for all things equine. The Queen has been passionate about horses and ponies her whole life and away from her role as head of state is devoted to her thoroughbreds.

The monarch's love of the equine world is something she inherited from her mother and she has been cheering on her horses for more than 60 years.

Thoroughbreds owned by the Queen have won four out of the five flat racing classics - the 1,000 Guineas and 2,000 Guineas, the Oaks and the St Leger - with only the Derby eluding her.

Charles, who is patron of the Queen's 90th Birthday Celebration, wrote: "I am delighted that we have succeeded in bringing together hundreds of members of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and other long-standing overseas friends to mark this special birthday.

"It could not be more fitting that a quite different group which also enjoys the Queen's unfailing interest and support - horses, of myriad breeds and colour - will join the 600, sailors, soldiers, airmen and women who make up this evening's celebration."

Charles went on to quote a Greek philosopher and historian: "As we marvel at the incomparable skill of rider and horse alike, we might allow our minds to drift to Xenophon's observation that 'a horse is a thing of beauty...none will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendour'."

The Queen and Philip were the last members of the royal party to arrive at the event - which featured all the royal men in black tie - and when her horse drawn carriage arrived the royal couple were greeted by Charles and Camilla.

The heir to the throne kissed his mother on both cheeks and on her gloved hand while his wife curtseyed to the monarch.

Dec told the 6,000 spectators in the stands: "Her life has spanned 10 decades and historic milestones include one world war, two coronations, man landing on the moon, the dawn of the new millennium, two London Olympic Games and of course 287 bush tucker trials."

Gary Barlow kicked off the entertainment with a belting performance of the song Something About This Night.

Famous actors narrated the historic moments from the Queen's life starting with Downton Abbey star Jim Carter who covered the monarch's childhood years and introduced his wife Imelda Staunton who performed a song.

Dame Helen took the audience through the monarch's war years and how the nation fought against Nazi tyranny.

The bleak post-war years were brightened by the royal wedding of the then Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947.

The actress went on to describe the young Queen's coronation on June 2 1953 and at the end of the sequence mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins gave a rousing rendition of I Vow To Thee My Country.

All eyes were on the Queen, who wore a sea green dress with a lace overlay and a matching jacket by her personal assistant and dresser Angela Kelly. On her shoulder she wore a turquoise diamond surround brooch.

One of the highlights of the night was a performance by Australian pop queen Kylie, who sang a version of her song I Believe In You.

As she performed, Jean-Francois Pignon, introduced as the horse whisperer of France, enthralled the spectators with his command of a group of horses including a Shetland pony.

Other highlights included the intricate and mesmerising percussion display from the Top Secret Drum Corps from Switzerland and the Middle Eastern fantasy of the Royal Cavalry of Oman.

A major part of the Queen's life has been her role as head of the Commonwealth - the 53-nation organisation know as the family of nations.

Actor Damian Lewis told the crowds: "One of the key pillars of this celebration is the Commonwealth. The Queen's commitment and dedication to it is immense.

"It is a testament to Her Majesty's constant engagement with these nations that she is loved in equal measure by those who have declared independence from the United Kingdom and those to whom the Queen is still head of state."

Military bands from across the Commonwealth performed but the New Zealand Army Band stole this part of the show playing Vangelis' theme from the film Chariots Of Fire, which had the spectators laughing as two of the band ran in slow motion.

And when they played the original theme tune to the BBC's test match cricket programme - Soul Limbo by 1960s soul group Booker T and the MGs - the musicians pretended to be cricketers to the delight of the crowds.

The finale saw all the acts - from countries as diverse as Azerbaijan to Fiji - assemble in the main arena for the closing moments when a birthday cake was brought before the crowds.

Dame Shirley Bassey sang the James Bond theme Diamonds Are Forever, before the Happy Birthday song was played, followed by the National Anthem.

Dec summed up the feelings of the crowds when he told the Queen: "Congratulations to you Ma'am on a remarkable milestone - 90 magnificent years - as a Princess and a truly inspirational monarch.

"Throughout your reign you've represented our nation with integrity and modesty and on behalf of 12 nations, 600 members of your Armed Forces, 900 horses, not to mention the dogs, the cattle and the regimental goat, on behalf of the 1,500 participants here tonight we would like to wish you a very happy birthday Your Majesty."

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