The Queen’s birthday is set to be a sombre affair.
Yes, she is turning the ripe old age of 95 which, ordinarily, would be a cause of great celebration, but she is also marking her first birthday without her beloved husband Philip.
The landmark occasion falls within the two-week period of royal mourning – which is being observed until Friday – and so will pass without the traditional gun salutes and fanfare.
Still, as she approaches 100 years on Earth and in the public eye, the Queen can take some comfort and joy in the rich memories the decades have afforded her.
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Here, we take a look at some of her birthday highlights: from posing as a bright young princess to working the crowds as a great-grandmother.
We admit that, unlike the other pictures in our catalogue, these early snaps were not taking precisely on the Queen’s birthday, April 21. But we couldn’t do an overview of the monarch’s life without including a glimpse of her in her infancy.
This photo, taken on October 9, 1926, shows the then Princess Elizabeth in her baby carriage, aged just five months.
Here’s the two-year-old princess arriving home at Buckingham Palace in May 1928.
This picture shows Elizabeth walking proudly beside her baby sister Margaret accompanied by two nannies. It’s not clear when or where exactly it was taken, but it’s sweet to see the future queen looking so protective of her infant sibling.
Elizabeth places an affectionate hand on her younger sister’s shoulder during a Girl Guides’ rally at Windsor Castle in 1938.
1947 – The Queen at 21
The striking photo was an official portrait taken of the princess three days before her 21st birthday in 1947.
This one was an informal snap, also taken to mark her 21st.
1952 – The Queen at 26
The future leader eyes up the Grenadier Guards Regiment in London, the day after turning 26.
1965 – The Queen at 39
Barely a decade on from that last photo, Elizabeth had been crowned Queen and become mother to four children. Here she is holding Prince Edward alongside husband Philip, Prince Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew.
1976 – The Queen at 50
This cheerful portrait shows the Queen posing at Windsor Castle to mark her 50th birthday.
Here she is receiving a birthday present from the then president of the Victoria Cross and George Cross associations, Sir John Smyth. (At least she looks happy about it.)
1986 - The Queen at 60
The monarch waves to the crowds from the balconies of Buckingham Palace as she marks her 60th birthday alongside Prince Andrew, his then wife Sarah Ferguson, and the Duke of Edinburgh.
1988 – The Queen at 62
Her Majesty smiles radiantly from the gardens of Government House in Perth, as thousands of Australians sing to wish her a happy birthday.
1999 - The Queen at 73
The Queen cuts a pensive figure as she stands beside a South Korean village chief to watch local women prepare the fermented cabbage dish kimchi.
2002 – The Queen at 76
The monarch beams as she accepts flowers from a pair of proud Scouts during a parade at Windsor Castle.
2011 – The Queen at 85
Her majesty with the Duke of Edinburgh and the Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Dr John Hall, during the royal Maundy Thursday service at Westminster Abbey which happened to fall on her 85th birthday.
2016 – The Queen at 90
Here she is cutting through a cake prepared by the Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain during her 90th birthday walkabout.
Crowds bearing Union Jack flags and garish pink balloons remind the Queen that she’s now been alive for nine whole decades.
2019 - The Queen at 93
This birthday was truly of a different time, with the next two marred by the Covid pandemic and her cherished husband’s death. Here she is clutching a bright spring bouquet as she leaves an Easter matins service at St George’s chapel in Windsor.
Less than two years later, this was to be the venue of Prince Philip’s funeral.
2021 – The Queen at 95
The Royal Family’s official Twitter page released this photo to mark the Queen’s 95th birthday on Wednesday morning. Alongside it, they shared the following statement:
“HM was born on 21 April 1926 at 17 Bruton Street in London, the first child of The Duke and Duchess of York.
“This year The Queen remains at Windsor Castle during a period of Royal Mourning following the death of The Duke of Edinburgh.”
This solemn message suggests that her 95th was certainly not expected to be the Queen’s happiest birthday.
But, as these photos prove, she’s undeniably had a joyful life.