85th Birthday of the Queen

Today, April 21, is the 85th birthday of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. The celebration is very  meaningful because it coincides with Maundy Thursday. The British royal family has this cherished tradition called Royal Maundy since the middle ages. Maundy is taken from the Latin word Mandatum means instruction. During the Last Supper, it was believed Jesus Christ left an instruction to his disciples to "love one another". This act of gift giving is the British monarch's response to Christ's instruction.

Prior to the 17th century, English Kings washed the feet of their poor subjects at the same time presenting food and clothing, but during the 18th century the tradition retained the gift-giving only. Today, Royal Maundy is celebrated with a special church service in the UK cathedral, usually at Westminster Abbey, where the sovereign, with her husband, presents silver coins to the elderly recipients. The number of recipients usually coincide with the age of the monarch, so this year, there are 85 recipients.

 Since her accession in February 1952 on the death of her father, King George VI, the Queen is already in the throne for 59 years now. She acts as the head of state (the government is headed by the Prime Minister) of the United Kingdom, the British dominions (Australia, Canada and New Zealand) and the Commonwealth Realms (composed of 15 nations mostly located in North America), she ruled but never governed because monarchs should be above politics.

Over five decades, she saw major social and development changes in her realm, she also witnessed the empire built by her ancestors reduced into merely a Kingdom, reducing colonies into commonwealth. As the current head of the House of Windsor, probably the most famous royal house in the world, Her Majesty became the figurehead of the throne's survival from the tumultuous crisis and controversies. Now the Queen is taking another milestone in her life and on the road of preparing a grand celebration for her 60th anniversary on the throne by 2012.

But did you know that she was not expected to ascend to the British throne on the day she was born?

On April 21, 1926, the world did not care so much about the birth of Princess Elizabeth because her father, Prince Albert "Bertie", the Duke of York was not the heir-apparent. She was baptized Elizabeth Alexandra Mary and only third in line of succession to the British throne. It was expected her uncle, Prince David, the Prince of Wales will get married and if he has many children and if her father, Prince Bertie, will sire a son, Princess Elizabeth would be pushed further from the throne. 

But destiny worked on her side and secured her place in the world history.

Prince David ascended the throne on the death of King George V in 1936, but months later he voluntarily abdicated in order to marry his commoner, twice divorced girlfriend, Wallis Simpson, Elizabeth's father became King George VI. Sixteen years later, in  February 1952, the King died from coronary thrombosis.

The Queen is married to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh for more than 63 years now, they have four children and eight grandchildren. Their first great-grandchild, Savannah Phillips, arrived last year, 2010. The Duke of Edinburgh was the former Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, like the Queen, he is also a great-great grandchild of Queen Victoria, he will turn 90 years old this coming June 10, 2011.

Though the Queen's birthday falls on the 21st of April, the official celebration of her birthday is held on the second saturday of June during the Royal Ascot Party, the grand celebration includes the Trooping the Colours (commonly known as the Birthday Parade) and Fly-past presentation where members of the royal family gathered on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch the fly-stunts of the Royal Air Force. The Queen's actual birthday is celebrated privately by the royal family, but the British troops traditionally fired gun salutes during the day to mark the Queen's special day: 41 gun salutes in Hyde Park, 21 gun salutes in Windsor Great Park and 62 gun salutes in the Tower of London.

According to the book, "The Royal Duty" by Paul Burrell, Her Majesty's personal footman for several years before he was hired by the Prince and Princess of Wales as Butler, the Queen is very soft-spoken and never raises a voice in the household, she is mild-tempered and very considerate. She never rebuke anybody and always show concern to the people around her. The Queen personally prepare her favorite tea, Earl Grey, in a silver kettle according to Burrell. She loves dogs and horses, she is an accomplished equestrianne and a good swimmer. When Burrell was still her footman, the Queen owned nine corgis (royal family's term for dogs). She is very fluent in French and used it to her best advantage when visiting Canada.

She had an excellent  relationship with her former daughters-in-law, the late Diana, Princess of Wales and Sarah, Duchess of York (estranged wife of Prince Andrew). When Diana was still alive, she was often quoted saying "I cannot do just anything because I don't want to disappoint Her Majesty. The Prince of Wales adored and respected his mother so much that he never entertained questions and discussions about the scenario of his reign because it means the death of the Queen.

The Queen drew support from her husband and members of her family in the day-to-day running of the Kingdom. She considered family life as virtually important, so every Christmas all members of the royal family gathered at Sandringham, while Easter and New Year usually celebrated at Windsor Castle, during summer in August, the rest of the family moved to Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The Queen's official London residence is Buckingham Palace while Windsor Castle is her favorite weekend residence.

As a ruling sovereign, Armed forces of the United Kingdom swear allegiance not to the country but to her. The Queen had dedicated her whole life to the Kingdom, and even at 85 she is still actively performing her duties, according to the official website of the British monarchy, even if the Queen is on a vacation, she receives official papers daily and remained fully informed on matters affecting her realms. She continues to undertake ceremonial and public duties. To date, she is the most traveled monarch in British history, regularly visiting her dominions and commonwealth overseas. 

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