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Beaming Queen in her element as she poses with beloved ponies for 96th birthday picture


The Monarch was photographed with two of her prized Fell ponies, which will be taking part in this year’s Royal Windsor Horse Show on the grounds of Windsor Castle. The picture was taken in March, ahead of her birthday on Thursday, April 21, which she is spending at Wood Farm, the Duke of Edinburgh’s cottage at Sandringham, Norfolk.

The show, which this year will mark her Platinum Jubilee with A Gallop Through History, a spectacular equestrian display showcasing horses from across the world on four nights from May 12 to 15, is normally one of her favourite weeks of the year.

The event has been described as a “personal tribute to our monarchy” and will feature more than 500 horses and more than a thousand performers taking the audience on a journey from Elizabeth I to the current Queen.

Organisers of the show commissioned photographer Henry Dallal to take this photograph on the castle grounds.

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They have previously commissioned pictures of her for the Golden and Diamond Jubilees and her 90th birthday.

The photo, which sees the Queen pose with her Fell pony Bybeck Nightingale on the right in her left hand and with Bybeck Katie on the left, is expected to please royal watchers who have in recent months worried about Her Majesty’s state.

Last October, she spent a night in hospital for preliminary medical checks a day after cancelling a visit to Northern Ireland.

The scare followed a busy schedule of public engagements and led to doctors advising a few days of rest.

The Duke, who died aged 99 in April last year, moved to the estate after his retirement in August 2017.

The Queen once said her late husband loved the house, especially the fact that “the sea was so close”.

She visited him frequently until the coronavirus pandemic led to him moving to Windsor Castle, where the two shielded together.

The last time she was seen at Wood Farm was during a stay at the beginning of the year that included a reception with members of the local community in the house’s ballroom on February 5, the eve of the start of the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations, which will culminate in a four-day UK bank holiday weekend from June 2 to 5.

The home’s retired housekeeper Teresa Thompson, 70, said at the time: “All the royal family love Wood Farm because it’s out of the way, it’s small, it’s intimate.

“You haven’t got lots of officials and household, it’s just close staff.”

No public engagement to mark the Queen’s birthday on Thursday has been planned by the Palace.

However, there will be tributes from family members and organisations she is involved with.

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