The Queen has turned 94 – but is marking her birthday away from her family as the coronavirus lockdown continues.
The monarch is with her husband of 72 years, the Duke of Edinburgh, at Windsor Castle in Berkshire with a reduced household for their protection.
Philip, 98, made his first major public statement on Monday since he retired nearly three years ago, thanking key workers including refuse collectors and postal staff for keeping essential services running during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The royal family are, like the rest of the country, staying away from one another as they follow the social distancing rules amid the pandemic.
The couple’s eldest son the Prince of Wales, who has recovered from the Covid-19 illness, is at Birkhall in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with the Duchess of Cornwall, while the Princess Royal, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex are all in their own separate homes around the country.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are staying at Anmer Hall, Norfolk, with their three children, while the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who have quit as working royals, are thousands of miles away in Los Angeles.
A Buckingham Palace source said the Queen’s birthday will not be marked in any special way, adding that any phone or video calls she has with family will be kept private.
The bells of Westminster Abbey – the church where the monarch was married and crowned – will also stay silent on her birthday for the first time in more than a decade.
The abbey is currently closed, meaning the celebratory peal which has taken place in her honour on her actual birthday – April 21 – every year since 2007, will not be able to go ahead, the abbey told the PA news agency.
“We are unable to ring our bells as the church is currently closed. So, it will be a virtual happy birthday this year via the abbey’s social media channels,” a spokeswoman for the central London church said.
With the UK in lockdown and thousands dead from the coronavirus outbreak, there will also be no birthday gun salutes.
The Queen decided the celebratory display of military firepower would not be “appropriate” at this time.
Usually a 21-gun salute is fired by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery from either Hyde Park or Green Park, followed by a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London by the Honourable Artillery Company.
The Queen has two birthdays – the day she was born in April and her official one in June, which is celebrated with the Trooping the Colour ceremony, but this has been cancelled in its traditional form this year.
The Queen – the nation’s longest reigning monarch – has been a source of stability during the crisis.
In a televised address to the nation, she stressed the country will overcome the virus, telling Britons: “We will meet again.”
She also delivered what was believed to be her first Easter address, with the resolute message: “We know that coronavirus will not overcome us.”
The royal family’s Instagram Stories shared facts and photos about the Queen’s childhood as part of activities for parents who are homeschooling to coincide with the week of her birthday.
Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born at 2.40am on April 21 1926.
She was the first child of the then-Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was born by caesarean section at 17 Bruton Street, the Mayfair home of her mother’s parents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.
She was never expected to be a monarch when she was born, but the abdication of her uncle Edward VIII in 1936 put her father on the throne, and changed her destiny.
She wed Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten in 1947, and became Queen at the age of 25 when George VI died from lung cancer in 1952.
Elizabeth II, who has been monarch for more than 68 years, is Head of State, the Armed Forces and the Commonwealth.
She is less than two years away from her platinum jubilee of 70 years on the throne.
In her 2019 Christmas message, she acknowledged the “bumpy” path her family, and the country amid Westminster’s bitter Brexit battles, had experienced during the past 12 months.
During 2019, the Sussexes spoke about their struggles living in the public eye, and the Queen’s second son Andrew gave a disastrous television interview about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and stepped down from public duties.
The monarch spent the first weeks of 2020 dealing with the fallout from Megxit – Harry and Meghan’s bombshell decision to quit as senior royals, which ultimately led to them walking away from the monarchy completely in March.
The Queen has witnessed many turbulent times during her reign, but even she confessed of the global Covid-19 pandemic: “While we have faced challenges before, this one is different.”