At the age of 60-something most people are contemplating retirement. Perhaps they are dreaming of days in the garden or visits to the seaside. Maybe they're planning days in town visiting the art galleries and museums they never had time to see when they were at work. Well – yes, maybe this is my dream, and perhaps yours too. But what of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II? 

Elizabeth II, Head of State of the UK as well as fifteen other Commonwealth countries, will celebrate her ninetieth birthday on 21st April 2016. She still has a full diary of appointments and state events, commanding the respect of world leaders and hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Elizabeth, although only small in stature, is a huge intellect not to be trifled with.


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Elizabeth II May 8, 2007
Credit: By NASA/Bill Ingalls [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons from Wikimedia Commons
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The Monarch's Public Day

The Monarch's diary remains full to the brim with investitures, receptions, garden parties, and formal visits overseas known as State visits. Until recently, Queen Elizabeth was undertaking two or even three State Visits every year visiting His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican City in April 2013, President Hollande of France in 2014 and in 2015 she made a State Visit to Germany.

State Visits

Queen Elizabeth on State Visit to BrisbaneCredit: By State Library of New South Wales collection [see page for license], via Wikimedia CommonsThere are usually inbound two State visits by Heads of State to the UK every year.

The aim of the visits are to strengthen Britain's relationships with other countries. I'm sure we all remember President Obama's recent visit to Buckingham Palace.   

Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Buckingham Palace has hosted garden parties since the 1860s and every year more than 30,000 people, from all walks of life, are invited to garden parties either at Buckingham Palace or the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. These garden parties are a way of recognising and rewarding public service.  Guests consume more than 25,000 cups of tea, over 20,000 sandwiches, at at least 20,000 cakes.



Around 25 Investitures take place every year. These are very special occasions where individuals who have been awarded an honour receive it from The Queen or other members of the Royal Family. Investitures take place mostly in the Ballroom at Buckingham Place, but occasionally at the Palace of Holyroodhouse or the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle. They might also take place overseas during State visits.

Investiture in Sidney, Australia

Investiture, Royal visit of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, February 1963, Government House, Sydney
Credit: Australian Photographic Agency (7300133560)
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Trooping the Colour and Other Ceremonies

Ceremonies attended by The Queen might include Beating Retreat and Trooping the Colour. Beating Retreat dates from the days of early warfare and the tradition continues with two ceremonies on Horse Guards Parade in June every year. Beating Retreat is now a lively and colourful display of military music and precision drill performed by the Massed Bands of the Household Division and the Mounted Bands of the Household Cavalry. The Queen or another member of the Royal Family takes the salute. 

Trooping the Colour takes place on a Saturday in June to marks the Sovereign's official birthday. Her Majesty's actual birthday is 21st April but the long-standing tradition is to mark the occasion on a Saturday in June when the weather is more likely to be fine. The ceremony takes place on Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall. It is performed by troops from the Household Division (Foot Guards and Household Cavalry). Members of the Royal Family, together with their invited guests and members of the public, watch the event.


Trooping the Colour ceremony, at Horse Guards Parade, June 1956. The Grenadier Guards troop their Colour.
Credit: By Central Office of Information official photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons from Wikimedia Commons
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Presentation of Maundy Money

Another event the Sovereign attends is the presentation of 'Maundy money', a ceremony dating back hundreds of years. The event takes place at a different church or cathedral every year on Maundy Thursday when The Queen acknowledges the service of elderly people to their church and community. The people receiving 'Maundy money' and the number of coins presented correlates to the Sovereign's age. For example, when The Queen was eighty years old, eighty women and eighty men each received eighty pence-worth of Maundy coins. The coins are minted in sterling silver.

Queen Elizabeth II at Wakefield Cathedral to present Maundy money.
Credit: By Runner1928 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons from Wikimedia Commons

State Opening of Parliament

The most important, and possibly the most colourful, event in the Monarch's year is the State Opening of Parliament which takes place in May every year. It's The Queen's duty, as Head of State, to formally open each new session of Parliament. The State Opening is important because it brings together the House of Commons, The House of Lords, and The Queen, the three elements of the legislature. Her Majesty has only missed two Openings during her reign, the first time in 1959 when she was expecting Prince Andrew, and the second in 1963 when she was pregnant with Prince Edward.

Her Majesty Behind the Scenes

Apart from hundred of public duties, Her Majesty is constantly busy behind the scenes. She starts her day by reviewing the daily newspapers, and there are always briefing notes and official papers that must be read. Wherever Her Majesty is, be it at Sandringham, Balmoral, or overseas, she remains fully briefed on all matters that might affect her realms. 

There are audiences with politicians and ambassadors as well as meetings with her Private Secretaries where the daily business of the country and her future diary plans are discussed. 

Hundreds of letters from the public arrive daily. The Queen selects some to read herself. Almost every letter receives a response from either a lady-in-waiting or staff in the Private Secretary's office.


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The Queen's Personal Interests

You would think with a diary as full as Queen Elizabeth's there would be little space for personal interests – but that's just not true! Most people know she owns and breeds thoroughbred horses taking a keen interest in their racing activities. Her interest in horses has taken her to the United States to see stud farms and stallion stations in Kentucky. 

She has loved her Corgi's since her first, Susan, was presented to her when she was eighteen years old. According to the MailOnline Her Majesty has ended the corgi breeding programme. Holly and Willow - the only two remaining corgis will probably be the last corgis to occupy through the royal residences. It seems Her Majesty does not wish to leave them behind when she dies.
Her other interests include walking in the countryside with her Labradors and Scottish country dancing. Every year Balmoral Castle is the setting for dances, known as Gillies' Balls, to which members of the local community and Castle staff are invited.

You Say Retirement - I Say Refitement

It seems like Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is on the go non-stop in what is is probably one of the most interesting and varied jobs on earth – no two days are ever the same! On her Accession to the throne in 1953 she dedicated her life to the service of the State and she intends to keep that promise. It seems there is no such thing as retirement. In Her Majesty's case the correct term is more likely to be 'Refirement'.  

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Exhibitions at Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is well-known for its fabulous exhibitions and no doubt Her Majesty probably has some input into these as well. 

Past exhibitions have included: