LONDON — Officially, her title is “Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”
There are stables at every one of her royal residences.
Her biographers have written that the queen reads the “Racing Post” newspaper at breakfast, while munching upon her bowl of Special K and assorted fruits.
Even as her health began to slip a notch, presenting her with mobility challenges, the queen rode horses and ponies — well into her mid-90s.
So it is appropriate that horses and the equestrian arts figure prominently in this week’s celebration of the queen’s 70 years on the throne, her Platinum Jubilee.
Horses, in fact, have turned out to be a popular jubilee present for the queen.
Last month, the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, sent her a small chestnut Karabakh horse named Shohrat. And on Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron gifted her a dappled gray named Fabuleu de Maucour. “The shapeliness and elegance of the horse, a seven year-old standard-bearer for the Garde Républicaine, epitomizes French horse-breeding,” the French Embassy said in a statement.
The four-day jubilee party kicked off Thursday with the Trooping the Colour military parade at Buckingham Palace, featuring 1,200 troops, 400 musicians — and no fewer than 240 horses.
Like the soldiers, the horses did as they were told. They demonstrated both spirit and training, obligingly walking in reverse across the parade grounds when asked by their riders, and standing calmly amid the ceremonial shouting and the banging of kettle drums.
Elizabeth rode on horseback at the Trooping the Colour from 1947, when her father was king, to 1986, when she pivoted to royal carriages.
She spent 18 of those years riding a majestic black mare named Burmese — also a gift, from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
And like Ginger Rogers — applauded for dancing as well as her partner Fred Astaire, but “backward and in high heels” — Elizabeth rode in these spectacles sidesaddle.
In the 1981 Trooping parade, the queen was praised for her steady hands on the reins of Burmese, when the horse was spooked by a former cadet in the crowd who fired off blanks from a pistol at them both (he was arrested and convicted under the Treason Act of 1842).
“She is a marvelous rider. She has a marvelous way with horses,” her son and heir Prince Charles told a BBC documentary.
In a service of thanksgiving for the queen on Friday, the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, used horse-related metaphors to talk about her life, saying “your majesty, we are sorry you are not here with us this morning in person. But we are so glad you are still in the saddle.”
On Saturday, the jubilee celebrations will merge with derby day at Epsom Downs, with members of the royal family in attendance.
Though the three Thoroughbreds the queen entered for the main event have all scratched, her horse “Just Fine” is set to compete in the penultimate race, according to the British sporting press. And five of her retired racehorses will join a parade at the track to celebrate her “unrivaled contribution to the equestrian world,” according to the organizers.
The queen herself will miss the derby. She experienced “some discomfort” during the opening day parade, the palace said, and would be missing some jubilee events. She “is expected to watch it on television at Windsor Castle,” the palace said Friday.
Even as she has cut back on public engagements, forgoing the derby is out-of-character for the queen.
In a sign of her priorities, Buckingham Palace said last month that her “episodic mobility problems” would prevent her from overseeing the State Opening of Parliament, and yet she managed to get herself to the Windsor Horse Show the same week. The Times of London reported that the queen looked “full of life” and that the “secret was simple: horses.”
You want to see the queen go a little nuts?
Watch a video of her watching one of her horses winning.
Her sons and grandsons Princes Charles, Andrew, William and Harry all play or played polo. The queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, was the first British royal to compete in the Olympics. She rode Goodwill, her mum’s horse, in the 1976 Montreal games.
Her majesty’s racing colors are purple, with gold braid, much like London’s new $23 billion underground and railway, the Elizabeth line — which she recently rode.
It is said that the queen does not bet on horses.
It is said that not everyone believes this.
Elizabeth’s parents gave her a Shetland pony, Peggy, when the princess was 4. She was riding at age 6.
With the blessing of the palace, the Windsor Horse Show released an official portrait for the monarch’s 96th birthday. It shows the queen dressed in a dark cape, holding the reins of two of her own stunningly white fell ponies, Bybeck Nightingale and Bybeck Katie.
Twitter said — for the most part approvingly — that she looked like Gandalf from “The Lord of the Rings.”
Ahead of The Queen’s 96th Birthday tomorrow, @windsorhorse have released a new photograph of Her Majesty.— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) April 20, 2022
Taken last month in the grounds of Windsor Castle, The Queen is pictured with two of her fell ponies, Bybeck Katie and Bybeck Nightingale.
Happy Birthday Your Majesty! pic.twitter.com/8m46e3SvpX
Elizabeth inherited her breeding and racing stock from her father, George VI, in 1952, when she became queen.
She’s been racing horses for more than 60 years, with Thoroughbreds owned by her taking first place in four out of the five “flat racing” classics: the Oaks and the St. Leger, as well as the 1,000 Guineas Stakes and 2,000 Guineas.
Only the Derby at Epsom Downs has eluded her.
In her new book on the monarchy, “The Palace Papers,” former New Yorker editor Tina Brown dishes that the queen’s wedding gift to her son Charles, when he married Camilla Parker Bowles, was a broodmare.
At the Windsor Castle wedding, Brown reported, the queen slipped out of the reception to an adjoining room to catch a few minutes of Grand National, Britain’s biggest steeplechase — which organizers delayed 25 minutes on her behalf. She was joined at the TV set by Andrew Parker Bowles, Camilla’s previous husband.
In a 2020 article in Horse & Hound magazine, the editors listed the queen’s all-time favorite horses, as revealed by her head groom, Terry Pendry, and her racing manager, John Warren.
Pendry described Elizabeth as a “fountain of knowledge in all things equine, you might say a living encyclopedia.”
He said one of the queen’s favorites was Doublet, a horse that Anne rode when she won the European Eventing Championships in 1971.
Then Pendry slipped in an admiring line, “The Queen bred both the horse and the rider!”
He wasn’t fired.