Queen Elizabeth II turned 96 on Thursday, receiving a rousing “Happy Birthday” from a military band outside her Windsor Castle home, after a troubled year hit by health concerns.
The Band of the Coldstream Guards, in red tunics and bearskin hats, played the tribute to crowds of onlookers, before a barrage of ceremonial gun salutes across the country.
But the queen — the oldest and longest-serving head of state in the world — marked the occasion with little fanfare, retreating to her Sandringham country estate in eastern England for a short break.
No official engagements have been planned, although royal officials released a photograph of the horse-loving head of state with two of her fell ponies.
Her grandson Prince William and his wife Kate called her “an inspiration to so many across the UK, the Commonwealth and the world”.
Royal tradition since the 18th century has also seen the monarch have a second, official birthday, typically celebrated in warmer weather in June.