Queen Elizabeth II privately marks her 96th birthday

Britain_Queen's_Birthday_25754 In this photo released by Royal Windsor Horse Show on Wednesday, April 20, 2022 and taken in March 2022, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II poses for a photo with her Fell ponies Bybeck Nightingale, right, and Bybeck Katie on the grounds of Windsor Castle in Windsor. Queen Elizabeth II is marking her 96th birthday privately on Thursday, retreating to the Sandringham estate in eastern England that has offered the monarch and her late husband, Prince Philip, a refuge from the affairs of state.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_79725 FILE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II arrives at the parade ring with Princess Alexandra in a horse drawn carriage, on the second day of the Royal Ascot horse race meeting in Ascot, England, Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Queen Elizabeth II is marking her 96th birthday privately on Thursday, April 21, 2022 retreating to the Sandringham estate in eastern England that has offered the monarch and her late husband, Prince Philip, a refuge from the affairs of state.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_32960 FILE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip arrive for the Epsom Derby at Epsom race course, southern England at the start of four-day Diamond Jubilee celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen's accession to the throne Saturday, June 2, 2012. Queen Elizabeth II is marking her 96th birthday privately on Thursday, April 21, 2022 retreating to the Sandringham estate in eastern England that has offered the monarch and her late husband, Prince Philip, a refuge from the affairs of state.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_81948 FILE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II reads the Queen's Speech from the throne during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords in London, Wednesday, May, 18, 2016. Queen Elizabeth II is marking her 96th birthday privately on Thursday, April 21, 2022 retreating to the Sandringham estate in eastern England that has offered the monarch and her late husband, Prince Philip, a refuge from the affairs of state.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_88401 FILE - A souvenir shop selling memorabilia with pictures of Queen Elizbeth II, in Windsor, England Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Queen Elizabeth II is marking her 96th birthday privately on Thursday, April 21, 2022 retreating to the Sandringham estate in eastern England that has offered the monarch and her late husband, Prince Philip, a refuge from the affairs of state.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_65436 FILE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in St. George's Chapel during the funeral of Prince Philip, the man who had been by her side for 73 years, at Windsor Castle, Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. Queen Elizabeth II is marking her 96th birthday privately on Thursday, April 21, 2022 retreating to the Sandringham estate in eastern England that has offered the monarch and her late husband, Prince Philip, a refuge from the affairs of state.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_02295 FILE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, and Meghan the Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry watch a flypast of Royal Air Force aircraft pass over Buckingham Palace in London, Tuesday, July 10, 2018. Queen Elizabeth II is marking her 96th birthday privately on Thursday, April 21, 2022 retreating to the Sandringham estate in eastern England that has offered the monarch and her late husband, Prince Philip, a refuge from the affairs of state.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_03496 FILE - A man wears a face mask while he feeds birds, as the screen in Piccadilly Circus is lit to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Britain's Queen Elizabeth's accession to the throne, in London, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. Queen Elizabeth II is marking her 96th birthday privately on Thursday, April 21, 2022 retreating to the Sandringham estate in eastern England that has offered the monarch and her late husband, Prince Philip, a refuge from the affairs of state.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_70331 FILE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II greets the crowds as she rides with Prince Phillip in an open top car to celebrates her 90th birthday in Windsor, England, Thursday, April, 21, 2016. Queen Elizabeth II is marking her 96th birthday privately on Thursday, April 21, 2022 retreating to the Sandringham estate in eastern England that has offered the monarch and her late husband, Prince Philip, a refuge from the affairs of state.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_38866 FILE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II collects flowers and good wishes during a walkabout to celebrates her 90th birthday in Windsor, England, Thursday, April, 21, 2016. Queen Elizabeth II is marking her 96th birthday privately on Thursday, April 21, 2022, retreating to the Sandringham estate in eastern England that has offered the monarch and her late husband, Prince Philip, a refuge from the affairs of state.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_66172 Members of the Band of the Coldstream Guards march as they arrive to play music as they King's Troop Royal Artillery prepare to fire a Royal Salute of 42 guns in Hyde Park to celebrate Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's 96th birthday I nHyde Park, London, Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_12949 King's Troop Royal Artillery leave after firing Royal Salute of 42 guns in Hyde Park to celebrate Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's 96th birthday in Hyde Park, London, Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_52359 King's Troop Royal Artillery leave after firing Royal Salute of 42 guns in Hyde Park to celebrate Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's 96th birthday in Hyde Park, London, Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_32034 Members of the King's Troop Royal Artillery prepare to fire a Royal Salute of 42 guns in Hyde Park to celebrate Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's 96th birthday in Hyde Park, London, Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_80135 Members of the King's Troop Royal Artillery prepare to fire a Royal Salute of 42 guns in Hyde Park to celebrate Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's 96th birthday in Hyde Park, London, Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_99388 Members of the King's Troop Royal Artillery fire a Royal Salute of 42 guns in Hyde Park to celebrate Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's 96th birthday in Hyde Park, London, Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_37254 Members of the King's Troop Royal Artillery fire a Royal Salute of 42 guns in Hyde Park to celebrate Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's 96th birthday in Hyde Park, London, Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_36100 Members of the King's Troop Royal Artillery fire a Royal Salute of 42 guns in Hyde Park to celebrate Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's 96th birthday in Hyde Park, London, Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_67176 Members of the King's Troop Royal Artillery fire a Royal Salute of 42 guns in Hyde Park to celebrate Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's 96th birthday in Hyde Park, London, Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Britain_Queens_Birthday_04484 Members of the King's Troop Royal Artillery fire a Royal Salute of 42 guns in Hyde Park to celebrate Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's 96th birthday in Hyde Park, London, Thursday, April 21, 2022.
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LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II was marking her 96th birthday privately Thursday, retreating to the Sandringham estate in eastern England that has offered the monarch and her late husband, Prince Philip, a refuge from the affairs of state.

Elizabeth is expected to spend the day at the estate’s Wood Farm cottage, a personal sanctuary where she also spent her first Christmas since Philip’s death in April 2021. Philip loved the cottage, in part because it is close to the sea, she said in February when hosting a rare public event at Sandringham.

“I think the queen’s approach to birthdays very much embodies her ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude,” said Emily Nash, the royal editor at HELLO! magazine. ”She doesn’t like a fuss.”

This birthday comes during the queen’s platinum jubilee year, marking her 70 years on the throne. While Thursday will be low-key, public celebrations will take place June 2-5, when four days of jubilee festivities have been scheduled to coincide with the monarch’s official birthday.

The day marks yet another milestone in a tumultuous period for the monarch, who has sought to cement the future of the monarchy amid signs of her age and controversy in the family. After recovering from a bout of COVID-19 earlier this year, the queen’s public appearances have been limited by unspecified “mobility issues.” Prince Andrew’s multi-million pound settlement with a woman who accused him of sexual exploitation also caused unwanted headlines for the royal family.

But the queen got an early birthday treat last week, when grandson Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, paid her a joint visit for the first time since they stepped away from frontline royal duties and moved to California in 2020. Harry, in an interview with NBC, said his grandmother was “on great form,” though he added that he wanted to make sure she was “protected” and had “the right people around her.”

Britain’s longest-serving monarch, Elizabeth has spent much of the past two years at Windsor Castle, west of London, where she took refuge during the pandemic.

It’s been a little over a year since the death of Philip, her spouse of more than 70 years.

The queen said good-bye during a scaled down funeral in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Coronavirus restrictions in place at the time limited the service to 30 mourners and forced the monarch to sit alone — a poignant reminder of how she would spend her remaining years.

Last month, with the pandemic on the wane and restrictions eased, the queen shrugged off recent health issues to attend a service of thanksgiving for Philip at Westminster Abbey, entering the abbey on the arm of Andrew, her second son. Her choice of escort was seen as a vote of support for Andrew following his legal settlement.

But the in-person appearance was rare. The Queen has increasingly relied on Prince Charles to take on public engagements in the twilight of her reign, most recently offering alms to senior citizens at the Royal Maundy service at St. George’s Chapel.

Charles took on the traditional task of distributing specially minted coins to retirees who were being recognized for service to the church and the local community.

This year, 96 men and 96 women received the coins, one for each year of the queen’s life.

“She has a lot coming up in the next few months, so it absolutely makes sense that she enjoys her birthday quietly, privately at Sandringham,″ Nash said. “She will no doubt have quite a lot of time to reflect on her happy times there with Prince Philip over the years. But this is really someone whose focus is still on the future, even at the age of 96.”

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Follow all stories on the queen at https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii.

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