Muted celebrations as Queen turns 94

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s record-breaking Queen Elizabeth turns 94 on Tuesday but the coronavirus lockdown means there will be little fanfare to mark the occasion.

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II talks with MI5 officers during a visit to the headquarters of MI5, which is the United Kingdom’s domestic counter-intelligence and security agency, at Thames House in London, Britain February 25, 2020. Victoria Jones/PA Wire/Pool via REUTERS

Elizabeth, the world’s eldest and longest-reigning monarch, typically spends her birthday privately without much public celebration but this year the event will be even more muted.

Royal birthdays and anniversaries are traditionally marked by ceremonial gun salutes, in which blank rounds are fired from various locations across London, but the queen felt it would be inappropriate to allow this to go ahead given the circumstances.

The latest official figures show that about 16,000 Britons infected with the new coronavirus have died in hospital, the fifth highest number globally. The nation is in its fourth week of lockdown, with most businesses closed and citizens ordered to stay at home.

Flags are usually flown on government buildings to mark the queen’s birthday but officials have been told that this year not everyone would be expected to arrange for that to happen.

The queen herself is staying at Windsor Castle, west of London, with her 98-year-old husband Prince Philip.

From there, she has issued a number of rallying messages to the nation, including only the fifth televised address of her 68-year reign.

On Monday Philip made a statement, a rare event since he retired from public life three years ago, to thank those involved in the response to the coronavirus crisis.

Elizabeth, who was born on April 21, 1926, in Bruton Street, central London, grew up not expecting to become queen. Her father, George VI, only took the crown when his elder brother Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952 at the age of 25, and surpassed her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria as Britain’s longest reigning monarch in September 2015.

“Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones,” she said at the time.

Buckingham Palace last month said a parade to celebrate the queen’s official birthday, which usually takes place in June, would not go ahead in its traditional form in light of restrictions on social gatherings.

Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Estelle Shirbon

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