Queen Elizabeth II privately marks her 96th birthday

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II attends England’s Royal Ascot horse race with Princess Alexandra in June 2018.
(Tim Ireland / Associated Press)

Queen Elizabeth II is marking her 96th birthday privately Thursday, retreating to the Sandringham estate in eastern England that has offered Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and her late husband, Prince Philip, a refuge from the affairs of state.

Elizabeth is expected to spend the day at the estate’s Wood Farm cottage, a personal sanctuary where she also spent her first Christmas since Philip’s death in April 2021. Philip loved the cottage, in part because it is close to the sea, she said in February when hosting a rare public event at Sandringham.

“I think the queen’s approach to birthdays very much embodies her ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude,” said Emily Nash, the royal editor at Hello magazine. ”She doesn’t like a fuss.”


This birthday comes during the queen’s platinum jubilee year, marking 70 years on the throne. While Thursday’s occasion will be low-key, public celebrations will take place June 2-5, when four days of jubilee festivities have been scheduled to coincide with the monarch’s official birthday.

The day marks yet another milestone during a tumultuous period for Elizabeth, who has sought to cement the future of the monarchy amid signs of her age and controversy in the family. After her recovery from a bout of COVID-19 earlier this year, the queen’s public appearances have been limited by unspecified “mobility issues.”

The legal settlement by her second son, Prince Andrew, with a woman who accused him of sexual exploitation also caused unwanted headlines for the royal family.

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But the queen got an early birthday treat last week, when grandson Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, paid her a joint visit for the first time since they stepped away from front-line royal duties and moved to California in 2020. Harry, in an interview with NBC, said his grandmother was “on great form,” though he added that he wanted to make sure she was “protected” and had “the right people around her.”

Elizabeth has spent much of the last two years at Windsor Castle, west of London, where she took refuge during the pandemic.

Prince Philip, her husband of more than 70 years, died slightly more than a year ago. The queen said goodbye to him during a scaled-down funeral in St. George’s Chapel at the castle. Coronavirus restrictions in place at the time limited the service to 30 mourners and forced the monarch to sit alone — a poignant reminder of how she would spend her remaining years.


Last month, with the pandemic on the wane and restrictions eased, the queen shrugged off recent health issues to attend a service of thanksgiving for Philip at Westminster Abbey, entering the church on Andrew’s arm.

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Her choice of escort was seen as a vote of support for Andrew following his legal settlement.

But her in-person appearance was rare. The queen has increasingly relied on her eldest son, heir apparent Prince Charles, to take on public engagements in the twilight of her reign. Most recently, that included the traditional giving of alms to senior citizens at the Royal Maundy service at St. George’s Chapel, where Charles distributed specially minted coins to people who were being recognized for service to the church and the local community.

“She has a lot coming up in the next few months, so it absolutely makes sense that she enjoys her birthday quietly, privately at Sandringham,″ Nash said. “She will no doubt have quite a lot of time to reflect on her happy times there with Prince Philip over the years. But this is really someone whose focus is still on the future, even at the age of 96.”