FROM a 21-gun royal salute at Edinburgh Castle to a beacon on the northernmost reaches of her kingdom, communities across Scotland yesterday paid tribute to Queen on her 90th birthday.
Public and private celebrations were held across the country to mark the occasion. Though modest compared to the scenes four years ago when the Queen marked her Diamond Jubilee, yesterday’s events were significant in terms of symbolism if not scale.
In the capital, the destination for the monarch’s first visit to Scotland after her coronation in 1953, large crowds gathered at the castle to watch the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland play prior to a 21-gun salute at noon.
Elsewhere in the capital, the Royal Banner – the Lion Rampant – was flown from the Scottish Government’s main building, while queues gathered for one of the day’s most eagerly awaited events at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
The Queen’s official residence in the city hosted the inaugural day of an exhibition showcasing outfits she has worn throughout her life.
The largest display of its kind, Fashioning a Reign gathers together a collection of her gowns, jewellery and accessories, including the outfit she wore for the historic opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.
In a quirk which brings home just how long the Queen has been a fixture of public life, the exhibition also features the double-breasted coat she wore when known as Princess Elizabeth during an official visit to Holyroodhouse alongside King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937.
Gun salutes were also fired from Stirling Castle, while in Glasgow, Lord Provost Sadie Docherty, in her role as Lord Lieutenant, the Queen’s representative in the city, joined residents at Orchard Grove care home in the Toryglen area of the city for a tea party, with her bailies attending similar events at nine other care homes.
On Thursday evening, beacons were due to be lit at dozens of locations across the country, with the events arranged by a mixture of organisations, including local authorities, community councils and private estates.
The tradition, which began in 1977 for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and has been repeated for VE Day commemorations and the Queen’s Gold and Diamond Jubilees, saw beacons sited at prominent locations in Scotland, such as the Shetland island of Unst, where the community council laid on an event.
The 1st Battalion Highlands Army Cadet Force were also due to carry a special gas fuelled beacon to the summit of Ben Nevis, with cadet groups elsewhere in the UK doing similar on Mount Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Slieve Donard.
The focus of the UK-wide celebrations was in Windsor, where at 7pm, the Queen lit the first in the series of 1,000 beacons around the country, revealing her initials and the number 90. Earlier, crowds of well-wishers lined the streets of the Berkshire town as she took part in a walkabout. Some members of the public broke out in a rendition of Happy Birthday as the Queen accepted bouquets outside Windsor Castle’s Henry VIII gate.
The public added their own informality to the occasion when some inserted the words “Happy Birthday dear Queenie” into the song. At the foot of Castle Hill, the sovereign walked past the imposing statue of her great great grandmother Queen Victoria – the very ancestor she eclipsed as the UK’s longest-reigning monarch last September.
She and the Duke of Edinburgh then got in a specially converted open-top Range Rover that allowed them to stand and wave at the crowds.
Shortly before 2pm, the Queen then unveiled a plaque marking The Queen’s Walkway, a 6.3km trail that links 63 significant points across the town.
Nadiya Hussain, winner of the BBC’s The Great British Bake Off, presented the Queen with an orange drizzle birthday cake. The three-tier confection took four days to make and used 42 eggs.
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The day also saw political leaders extend warm wishes to the monarch as she enters her tenth decade.
Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to the Queen for leading a “gentle evolution” of the monarchy during her reign, which he said has opened up the royal family to the public.Speaking in the House of Commons, he said: “We are uniquely blessed in our country. Her Majesty’s service is extraordinary and it is a joy for us all to celebrate, to cherish and to honour.”
He added: “In this modern Elizabethan era, Her Majesty has led a gentle evolution of our monarchy.
“From that first televised Christmas Day message, over three decades before cameras were allowed into this House, to the opening up of the royal palaces and the invention of the royal walkabout, she’s brought the monarchy closer to the people while also retaining its dignity.”
Celebrating the speech she gave on her 21st birthday in Cape Town, when the Queen dedicated her life to the service of the Commonwealth, he added: “Never has such an extraordinary promise been so profoundly fulfilled. It is truly humbling to comprehend the scale of service that Her Majesty has given to our country over so many years.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sent a message of congratulations to the Queen on behalf of the people of Scotland and said it was clear she enjoyed an “incredible bond” with the country.
She said: “Just last year, we were fortunate enough to be able to celebrate with Her Majesty as she became the UK’s longest serving monarch on the day she also opened the new Borders Railway.
“Over the course of that incredible day, it was clear the huge affection Her Majesty had for Scotland and the incredible bond she has forged with the people who live here over her many years of dedicated public service.
“Many thousands across the country will be toasting Her Majesty today as she marks this wonderful milestone.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said the Queen’s near 65 year-long reign was a “remarkable dedication to public service,” adding: “It is fitting that we use this happy occasion to pay tribute to that.”
The leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson said: “I offer my sincerest congratulations to Her Majesty on her 90th birthday. It is entirely typical that she is still fulfilling a hectic schedule of duties this week as, throughout her reign, she has been the embodiment of public service and duty.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie noted how during her “lifetime of service,” the Queen “was there for people” during the best and worst of times, such as the London Olympics and the Dunblane school shootings.