Queen Elizabeth Makes Rare Public Outing to Attend Longtime Friend's Birthday Party

Stephanie Petit
Queen Elizabeth Makes Rare Public Outing to Attend Longtime Friend's Birthday Party

Just days after Queen Elizabeth appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony for her annual birthday festivities at Trooping the Colour, she stepped out to celebrate the birthday of a longtime friend.

The 93-year-old monarch, who is rarely seen outside of formal outings, was spotted leaving the Royal Automobile Club in London’s Pall Mall on Thursday afternoon escorted by former motor racing driver Sir Jackie Stewart, who held a lunch to celebrate his 80th birthday.

Unsuspecting passersby on the street pulled out their camera to take a quick snap of the Queen as she got into her waiting car. She wore a light blue ensemble for the occasion and carried her trusty Launer London black handbag.

Queen Elizabeth has reportedly owned more than 200 Launer handbags over the years, with her loyalty to the brand beginning in 1968, when designer Sam Launer sent her a bag. The bag even made a surprise cameo in an official portrait of her unveiled last year — and made a very memorable appearance in her 90th birthday portrait thanks to great-granddaughter Mia Tindall!

Isabel Infantes/PA Images/Getty
Sir Jackie Stewart and Queen Elizabeth | Isabel Infantes/PA Images/Getty
Queen Elizabeth | Isabel Infantes/PA Images/Getty
  • Can’t get enough of PEOPLE’s Royals coverage? Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more!

The Queen and Sir Jackie, a former Formula 1 driver, have been friends for decades. He’s enjoyed staying at her royal residences, and even tapped Princess Anne to write the foreword for his biography. His wife, Helen, is also godmother to Anne’s daughter, Zara Tindall.

Queen Elizabeth at Trooping the Colour | Frank Augstein/AP/Shutterstock

The Queen, who was born on April 21, 1926, celebrated her birthday this year privately with members of the royal family. Since the occasion also fell on Easter Sunday, the royal attended church services with family.

While the Queen typically celebrates her actual birthday privately, it’s also customary to celebrate a sovereign’s birthday publicly on a day during the summer, when the weather is nicer. The royal family gathered together last weekend for Trooping the Colour, the monarch’s annual birthday parade.