Queen Elizabeth's Birthday Parade, Trooping the Colour, Triples Last Year's Fete at Windsor Castle

Queen Elizabeth was joined by her cousin the Duke of Kent to take in a grander display than in 2020, despite some COVID restrictions still in place to scale back the celebration

Queen Elizabeth II attends a military ceremony in the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle
Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth's birthday celebration brought a little festivity to the streets of Windsor on Saturday morning — but in keeping with the times, her annual Trooping the Colour was scaled back out of respect for continued COVID restrictions.

While crowds weren't lining the streets of London as they have in years past, military planners have learned what they can achieve in the quadrangle of Windsor Castle and did manage to put on a bigger display than last year, with three times as many soldiers involved.

The Queen, 95, had her cousin Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, accompanying her as she watched the Scots Guards lead the parade in her honor. There was a poignancy to the day, as the last time the Queen took part in a public ceremony at the castle it was the funeral of her beloved husband Prince Philip, who died in April.

As well as the Scots Guards on the quadrangle lawn, there were more regiments represented than last year. The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery paraded in bringing with them guns dating from the First World War.

Following them through the magnificent archway -- that provides a wonderful view down the Long Walk -- were the mounted Blues and Royals and Life Guards And heralding the arrival of the senior regiment officers were the familiarly Scottish sound of bagpipers.

The massed bands played a selection of Scottish folk songs and then the Queen -- in a matching coat and hat of gray and lemon yellow created by her senior aide and dressmaker Angela Kelly (and accessorized with an aquamarine bar brooch) -- stepped out of the Castle. The National Anthem God Save The Queen was played as she stood under the specially-erected canopy.

The Queen Arrives At The Trooping Of The Colour 2021
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. SplashNews.com

But she sat -- her trusty handbag at her feet -- as the bands performed a jaunty quick march. Like last year, the parading soldiers kept the required 6ft apart at all times, even when they rotated in a so-called 'spin-wheel' formation.

There was a noisy moment to enjoy towards the end of the ceremony, as the red arrows flew over the castle. Looking up with a smile, she clearly enjoyed the sight of nine aircraft in formation over her 1000-year-old home.

She sat and enjoyed the last tunes including Great and Glorious as the sound of the jets echoed away. After more than half an hour of parade, she stood again to enjoy the respect of the soldiers passing the dais as they marched passed and out of the castle quadrangle.

Trooping Of The Colour 2021 at Windsor Castle

The parade came after a busy Friday in Cornwall, 285 miles away, when she was joined by other senior members of the royal family in helping to welcome world leaders to the G-7 economic summit. On Sunday, she will be back in the quadrangle to greet President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden as she hosts them for tea at the castle.

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Trooping Of The Colour 2021 at Windsor Castle

It is the second year in succession Trooping the Colour, which includes a major military parade followed by the royal family gathering on the Buckingham Palace balcony to watch a fly-past, has been downsized and relocated due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is the traditional celebration for the military to say happy birthday and pass on the good wishes of the nation to her.

Trooping Of The Colour 2021
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Leading military organizer Garrison Sergeant Major Andrew Stokes told PEOPLE this week about the difficulties they faced as they stuck to the six-feet social distancing rule. "We used a combination of pragmatism, relevance and precedence to compromise, and accepted that it just isn't possible to conduct state ceremonial events on the scale that we were used to, but we could still deliver it to the highest standard and it could also be an accurate representation on what we would normally conduct," he says.

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"So that was what we did, tried to keep in some key aspects of what happens on Horse Guards and focus on delivering that to an excellent standard. This year we will do the same, however with the lessons we learned last year it should be possible to increase the scale of the event," he continues.

But the Queen was still able to enjoy it! She always loves the quick march and familiar tunes like Les Huguenots, Stokes says. "I have the privileged position of being stood immediately behind Her Majesty at this point and it is quite clear that [she] enjoys this particular sequence of the parade. I have unforgettable memories of seeing see Her Majesty foot-tapping to these memorable tunes."

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