Queen in "sparkling form" as she cuts cake and chats with guests at Sandringham on eve of 70th anniversary of her reign
The Queen was on "sparkling" form as she met with villagers from Sandringham on the eve of the 70th anniversary of her reign.
The monarch attended a reception held in the ballroom of Sandringham House where members of the local community looked on as she cut a cake to mark the occasion.
The Queen succeeded her father, King George VI, following his death on February 6, 1952, with the monarch returning to the estate where he died to mark the anniversary.
The 95-year-old head of state arrived at the event with a wooden walking stick and her trademark black handbag.
The Queen leaned on her stick and chatted to guests who were seated around tables waiting for tea to be served but who stood up when the monarch approached.
Yvonne Browne, vice-president and chairman of the Sandringham WI, said the Queen was on “sparkling form” after she joked and laughed with her guests.
Among those invited were Angela Wood, who as a student was tasked by royal florist and cookery doyenne Constance Spry and cordon bleu chef Rosemary Hume to help perfect their dish of Coronation Chicken for the crowning of the Queen in 1953.
Mrs Wood made the Queen laugh when she told the monarch she spent "days and days altering it for Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume".
The Queen, wearing an Angela Kelly wedgewood blue crepe and white brocade dress, beamed with delight during the gathering, where she appeared at ease.
The event was the largest public engagement the Queen had attended in person since last October's Windsor Castle evening reception for delegates of the Government's Global Investment Summit earlier that day.
A few days later concerns for the Queen's health were raised after she pulled out of a trip to Northern Ireland and spent a night in hospital, she was ordered to rest by doctors who later advised her to carry out light duties.
Today, her guests included members of her local Women's Institute (WI), the Sandringham branch she supports as president, and Sandringham Estate pensioners.
The Queen's Platinum Jubilee will be celebrated across the country during an extended June Bank Holiday in honour of the longest-serving British monarch.
During the reception the Queen also met representatives from West Norfolk Befriending a charity which aims to reduce the social isolation experienced by the elderly by matching them with trained volunteer befrienders who visit on a regular basis.
And she spoke to members of Little Discoverers which provides early education for pre-school children with movement difficulties and delayed development.
The gathering was held as part of a low-key weekend to mark the anniversary, which the Queen tends to mark in ‘quiet contemplation’ of her father.
He died aged 56, with Queen Elizabeth II taking to the throne aged just 25.
This will be the first anniversary of her accession without her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died last April.
Anne Tennant, Lady Glenconner, who was a maid of honour at the Queen's coronation, said she believed the anniversary would be tinged with sadness given it corresponds with the day her father died.
Lady Glenconner said: "I think the Queen will look back very sadly."