The Queen’s birthdays have been quite spectacular over the years: a guide to her celebrations, from 1926 to 2021

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  • Including the recipe for her go-to cake, her favourite presents, and her most iconic looks, over the years.

    Yesterday marked the Queen’s birthday (here’s how she celebrated) and, while the 21st April usually marks a joyous occasion for HRH, this year looked a bit different. Sadly, her birthday this year fell just twelve days after the sad loss of Prince Phillip.

    As well as the passing of her husband of 73 years, she’s having to celebrate in a slightly-locked-down way: you are still not allowed other people who aren’t in your household inside your home, and you can only see groups of up to six outdoors.  It’s said she marked the occasion with a small get-together of close family and friends at Windsor Castle.

    Fingers crossed, by her second birthday on June 12th, her “period of deep sadness”, as she phrased it, will have lightened.

    Fun (albeit slightly confusing) fact: every year, the Queen celebrates two birthdays: the day she was born, 21 April 1926, and her ‘official’ birthday. The date of the Queen’s official birthday changes every year, and the tradition to have two is believed to have come from King George II. He reportedly found his November birthday too cold to celebrate, so held a celebration in June for his official birthday, too.

    Even though this year the Queen’s birthday will be a sad one, they haven’t all been. With that in mind, here’s a look back over some of her favourite celebrations, along with her go-to cake, most memorable gifts, standout beauty and fashionable moments, and more.

    Your guide to the Queen’s birthday

    The Queen’s favourite celebrations over the years 

    1986

    Having a concert hosted in your name sounds pretty cool, right? That’s exactly how Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 60th birthday in 1986.

    Held at the Royal Albert Hall, the concert was broadcasted on the BBC for the world to watch. All music selections were made by the Queen herself, plus a few other royal family members.

    It was certainly a night to remember, so memorable in fact that the Queen had another concert held in 2018 for her 92nd birthday, hosted by the Commonwealth society.

    The Queen's birthday: LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 21: Queen Elizabeth ll arrives at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden to attend a special gala to celebrate her 60th birthday on April 21, 1986 in London, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

    2006

    In 2006, the Queen turned 80, and Britain did not let her down with the celebrating. The Guardian reported that over 20,000 people lined the streets outside her home at Windsor Castle and, for 45 minutes, the Queen strolled the streets to meet the well-wishers. Think Union Jack flags and thousands of bouquets.

    In total, Buckingham Palace revealed that they had received 20,000 cards, and 17,000 emails wishing her a happy birthday. From the photographs taken of the Queen opening some of her post – see below – she looks rather chuffed with her fan mail.

    Later that evening, the celebrations continued with a private black-tie dinner, hosted by her son, Prince Charles, and an extravagant firework display.

    The Queen's birthday: HRH Queen Elizabeth II sits in the Regency Room at Buckingham Palace in London, April 20, 2006, as she looks at some of the cards which have been sent to her for her 80th birthday.

    2011

    Although it seems the Queen certainly loves a birthday celebration, in 2011, she kept things more low-key. That was because her birthday fell a week before Kate’s and Prince William’s wedding, and it just so happened that the royals saw it as a perfect opportunity for broadcasters to practice filming outside Westminster Abbey, or so say Australian Crown TV.

    So, the Queen spent the morning at the Abbey attending a service observing the holy week holiday, Maundy Thursday. During the ceremony, Queen Elizabeth handed out money to elders, a royal tradition that started under the reign of Charles II. The Maundy money, as it’s coined, was handed out to 170 people, 85 men and 85 women in honour of each year of Queen Elizabeth’s life.

    The Queen's birthday: Kate and William's wedding

    2016

    In 2016, ten years on from her 80th birthday celebrations, her Majesty decided to spend her birthday giving back to her loyal patrons. On Sunday 12th June, after the Trooping the Colour parade, the Queen hosted a patron’s lunch, a celebration of her patronage of more than 600 organisations in the UK and around the Commonwealth.

    The Mall at St James’s was lined with picnic tables for guests to enjoy a hamper-style lunch. The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William and Prince Harry all made an appearance. Wondering how you got a ticket? The BBC reports that over 1,000 tickets were allocated in a public ballot, with any remaining tickets sold for £150 to the organisations the Queen was a Patron of.

    The Queen's birthday: The Patron's Picnic

    What is the Queen’s favourite birthday cake? 

    We know where the Queen’s favourite restaurant is – but wondering what cake the Queen loves to tuck into after a long day of celebrations?

    We’ve done the digging for you. Former Royal Chef Darren McGrady revealed to Hello! Magazine that the monarch is a huge fan of a chocolate biscuit cake – such a huge fan, in fact, that she passed her love for this cake down to her grandson Prince William, who then served this cake at his wedding to Kate.

    Chef Darren said to Hello!: “The chocolate biscuit cake is the only cake that goes up to the royal table every day until it has all gone – sometimes this means it following her to Windsor Castle for the weekend”.

    Darren’s actually shared the recipe for it on his website, The Royal Chef. Looks like we know what we’re baking this weekend.. if it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for us.

    What have the Queen’s favourite birthday gifts been, over the years? 

    Did you know? The Royal family are actually very secretive when it comes to sharing the presents they each receive. Although none of these are confirmed, there’s been rumours of the Queen’s favourite gifts being everything from a washing up apron, to one particular casserole dish.

    Kate and William once shared in an interview that their go-to gifts for the Queen are always handmade by her three grandchildren, George, Charlotte and Louis. The Duke of Cambridge said: “With the great grandchildren around, of course they can make things, which always goes down really well – it doesn’t matter what it is.”

    For a woman who has everything, of course her favourite presents are going to be the ones made from the heart by her grandchildren.

    Read what special gift Harry and Meghan got for the Queen this year here.

    The Queen's birthday: A portrait of the Royal family

    The Queen’s go-to beauty looks across the years

    The Queen is known for her go-to subtle nude lipstick, but has also been known to opt for a more stand-out pink, over the years.

    According to a range of sources, these are the beauty products the Queen can’t live without, so we’ve no doubt they’ve been used for a birthday or two over the years.

    1. Essie ‘Ballet Slippers’ nail polish

    According to Essie’s website, the Queen’s hairdresser wrote to the brand’s founder Essie Weingarten  in 1989, to request a bottle of Ballet Slippers. It’s reported that it’s still the only nail polish her Majesty uses.

    Essie Nail Colour 6 Ballet Slippers Nail Polish
    Price: £7.99

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    2. Elizabeth Arden’s moisturising lipsticks

    The Queen is said to have been a fan of Elizabeth Arden lipsticks for years. According to Hello! magazine, the brand has held a royal warrant for over 55 years. Even though we can’t say for sure the colour most preferred by the Queen, she does tend to use bold pink shades.

    Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour® Cream Lip Protectant Stick Sheer Tint SPF 15
    Price: £20.00

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    3. Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant

    Another favourite from Elizabeth Arden is their Eight Hour Cream Protectant. According to The Telegraph, a press representative said the brand frequently communicated with the Queen’s senior dresser, Angela Kelly.

    “We work closely with Angela Kelly and her team to ensure we provide excellent service for whatever Her Majesty requires, or would like to try,” the representative said.

    Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour® Cream Skin Protectant, 30ml
    Price: £14.00

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    4. Clarins Ever Matte Mineral Powder Compact

    It’s reported that The Queen has used Clarins’ products ever since her Coronation in 1953. That year, she commissioned the brand to create a shade of lipstick to compliment her dress.

    Now, 68 years later, the monarch, according the Hello! magazine, favours the Clarins Ever-Matte Mineral Powder Compact in Transparent Fair.

    Ever Matte Mineral Powder Compact
    Price: £28

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    5. Floris London White Rose Perfume

    Another fun fact we bet you didn’t know: Floris London holds a Royal warrant for their perfumes, although don’t bother trying to get the brand to tell you the secret formula that makes up the Queen’s favourite scent.

    It’s been hush, hush for years – but as the Queen’s favourite flowers are Carnations, you’d guess that her go-to scent might be White Rose. Expect a floral scent, or so the site says, with hints of spice and notes of carnations.

    White Rose Eau de Toilette 100ml
    Price: £80.00

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    The Queen’s most memorable birthday outfits, over the years

    For 36 years, the Queen wore her Scots Guards Uniform to the Trooping the Colour parade, but, fun fact, from 1988 the Queen was allowed to choose her own outfits.

    Why? Well, because in 1988 it was confirmed that she would be riding to the Parade in a car, not on horseback – meaning no uniform was necessary.

    Keep scrolling to see some of the Queen’s most iconic style moments.

    1988

    The very first year the Queen wore her own clothes, she opted for a light blue matching outfit, with pearls as accessories. She rode in an open carriage for the first time, too. Read the real reason the Queen always wears pearls, here.

    The Queen's birthday: Her birthday in 1988

    1994

    Six years later, the Queen paired her signature pearls with a standout yellow hat, navy overcoat, and brooch.

    The Queen's birthday: Queen Elizabeth II in an open carriage at Trooping the Colour

    1998

    In 1998, the Queen opted for a texture it’s believed she’d never worn in public before. At the parade, she opted for a feathered coated jacket on top of a mosaic motif dress. Now that’s how you contrast patterns.

    The Queen's birthday: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are joined on the balcony

    2000

    A new Century equaled a new colour for the Queen. For the first time at the Trooping the Colour parade, she wore a floral bubble-gum pink dress-suit.

    Maybe that’s where Harry Styles gets his inspiration from…

    The Queen's birthday: Elizabeth II [& Family] [RF: England RF];Edward [RF: England RF];Philip [& Family] [RF: England RF]

    2006

    A regal colour, for a regal Queen. In 2006, the Queen sported a purple outfit with a matching hat and a pearl in the middle to match her jewellery.

    The Queen's birthday: Trooping the Colour 2006

    2012

    What to do when it rains on your birthday? Wear bright yellow to brighten the day, naturally. In 2012, the weather may have been rainy, but the Queen brightened up the occasion with a yellow overcoat and hat, with accents of roses and white gloves.

    The Queen's birthday: LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: Members of the Royal Family stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace following the Trooping the Colour ceremony at the Horse Guards Parade on June 16, 2012 in London, England. The annual ceremony, made up of more than 600 guardsmen and cavalry, is believed to have first been performed during the reign of King Charles II and in 1748. The parade marked the official birthday of the Sovereign, even though the Queen's actual birthday is on April 21st. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

    2015

    The Queen’s smile wasn’t the only thing sparkling that day: her dress did, too. She styled a shimmery blush dress with white gloves and a matching hat, which matched Kate’s pastel blue dress perfectly.

    The Queen's birthday: a shot of the Royal family

    2016

    Just when you think the Queen couldn’t add any more colour to her wardrobe, she turns up to the parade in the brightest outfit yet. The fluorescent green overcoat with a hot-pink flower on her hat made sure that all eyes were on her.

    The Queen's birthday: Trooping The Colour 2016

    Everyone here at Marie Claire, hopes the Queen had a lovely birthday. Reporting by Rosie Grant. 

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