Sombre mood as grieving Queen Elizabeth II turns 95

London (AFP) –


Queen Elizabeth II turns 95 on Wednesday, just days after burying her late husband Prince Philip, in what will be her first birthday alone in more than seven decades.

The birthday falls during a two-week period of royal mourning following the April 9 death of the 99-year-old Duke of Edinburgh, who was interred Saturday in the Royal Vault at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.

The Queen, seen at the funeral for the first time since his death, cut a solitary figure due to coronavirus restrictions, sitting alone in mourning black, with a white-trimmed, black face mask.

Close family, also masked, were forced to sit socially distanced in the historic 15th-century Gothic chapel during the 50-minute service attended by just 30 guests.

With the ongoing restrictions curtailing socialising, her birthday -- typically marked with a traditional gun salute and the release of a new portrait -- will be subdued this year.

Although the grieving monarch returned to public duties a few days after Philip's passing, there are no plans to mark her birthday publicly.

She is expected to be at Windsor Castle, west of London, where she and the late duke had spent much of the last year shielding due to the pandemic.

"This is going to be a private day for her and that's how it should be," said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty Magazine.

"I think she will be personally devastated by this, but I don't think the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, her husband of 73 years, is going to impact on her working role.

"There's the public queen and there's the private queen, and she's great at being able to compartmentalise."

- 'Huge void' -

Britain's longest-serving monarch, now in the twilight of her reign, married Philip in November 1947, nearly five years before she succeeded her father, king George VI.

She has previously described him as her "strength and stay" during seven decades of almost constant presence at her side.

Senior royals have conceded his death has left a "huge void" in the Queen's life, and have reportedly been sharing responsibility to comfort her at Windsor.

The Queen and Philip's grandson Prince Harry, 36, who flew back from the United States for the funeral, may remain in Britain for her birthday, according to reports.

Saturday was his first public meeting with the family since a reported falling out over his shock move to California, and his stinging criticism of royal life, including racism in the institution.

He reportedly spent several hours with his father and heir to the throne Prince Charles and elder brother Prince William following the ceremony, prompting speculation that any enduring rift is being healed.

Although the Queen's birthday is on April 21, her official birthday is normally celebrated on the second Saturday in June, in a tradition dating back to 1748.

It is marked with an annual military parade, known as "Trooping the Colour", but has been cancelled for a second consecutive year due to the pandemic.