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Queen's 90th Birthday: Highs and lows of life as the monarch

From the dark days of Lord Mountbatten’s murder and that infamous ‘annus horribilis’, the Queen has entered one of the most positive periods of her reign

Over the decades the Queen has experienced moments of happiness and events that have tested her resolve.

From the birth of her four children and success at the racecourse, to the loss of loved ones and the public breakdown of family marriages, she has experienced highs and lows like anyone else.

The year 1992 was famously the Queen’s “annus horribilis” — one of the most difficult periods of her reign.

During that year the Princess Royal divorced, the Duke and Duchess of York separated and the Prince and Princess of Wales were splitting up.

Then came the devastating blaze at Windsor Castle that saw 200 firefighters battling to save the historic residence filled with priceless artworks.

Public opinion turned against the royals amid fears that taxpayers would have to foot the bill for the repairs.

The Queen announced that she would pay tax from her income and cut down the size of the Civil List.

In an unusually personal address at a Corporation of London Guildhall luncheon on November 24 1992 to mark her 40th year on the throne, the Queen delivered her own take on the recent events.

She said: “In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an annus horribilis.”

The Queen has also experienced royal deaths, from her father, George VI, on February 6 1952 — the day she became sovereign — to Lord Mountbatten, known to the Royal Family as Uncle Dickie, who was killed by an IRA bomb in August 1979.

The Queen’s use of the Latin phrase “annus horribilis” — which translates as “horrible year” — was a play on the more commonly used phrase “annus mirabilis”, meaning year of wonders.

A year that may fall under a happier heading is 1948, when Charles was born and the nation celebrated with the then Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh.

The births of Princess Anne in 1950, Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964 brought the royal couple further happiness.

After the troubled period of 1992 when the personal lives of three of their children were unsettled, they now all appear happy with both Charles and Anne remarried.

The Queen has watched three of her eight grandchildren marry — the Duke of Cambridge, Zara Phillips and her brother Peter — and she now has five great-grandchildren.

With the birth of William and Kate’s son Prince George in 2013, the line of succession is secure and the monarch is now surrounded by three future sovereigns — Charles, William and George.

The Queen’s great passion in life is her thoroughbred horses and she is probably never happier than when working with John Warren, her bloodstock and racing adviser.

Her love of all things equine began as a girl and she went on to breed her own horses, enjoying the thrill of seeing them race — although she does not bet.

She is a respected figure in the racing world and her horses 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.

The Queen made sporting history in 2013 when she became the first reigning monarch to win Royal Ascot’s Gold Cup, and she could not contain her excitement as she sat in the royal box and watched her horse Estimate pass the winning post.

Life and luck appear to have brought the Queen to a positive period in her reign where she may be looking to the future in optimistic mood.

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