READ EXCERPT: 'The Queen Mother'

After this eclectic depiction of the previous ten decades, representatives of 170 of the more than 300 civil organizations, charities and other groups with which Queen Elizabeth was associated marched past her. This part of the parade began with Queen Elizabeth's page leading two of her corgis, the breed of dog which had for so long shared her life. There were more animals: camels (ridden by members of the Worshipful Company of Grocers, whose emblem is a camel), horses, an Aberdeen Angus bull, North Country Cheviot sheep, chickens, racehorses. The groups waving gaily as they passed included the Girls' Brigade, Queen Elizabeth's Overseas Nursing Services Association, the Cookery and Food Association (a hundred chefs all in their whites), the Mothers' Union, the Poultry Club of Great Britain, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the National Trust, the Royal College of Midwives, St John Ambulance Brigade, the Royal School of Needlework, the Colditz Association, the Battle of Britain Fighter Association, the Bomber Command Association and, bringing up the rear, twenty-two holders of the Victoria and George Crosses, Britain's highest awards for heroism, followed by the venerable Chelsea Pensioners marching stiffly but proudly in their bright red uniforms. Everyone in the stands stood up as these brave men and women passed.

RAF planes from the Second World War – a Spitfire, a Hurricane,a Lancaster bomber, a Bristol Blenheim – flew overhead, followed by the Red Arrows trailing red, white and blue vapour trails. And all the while the bands and the orchestra played on and the choirs sang. Hubert Parry's glorious anthem 'I Was Glad', which had been sung at King George VI and Queen Elizabeth's Coronation in 1937, was followed by First World War music-hall favourites such as 'Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag', 'Keep the Home Fires Burning' and (nicely vulgar) 'My Old Man Said Follow the Van'. Three hundred children from the Chicken Shed Company danced. Altogether some 2,000 military personnel and more than 5,000 civilians celebrated on Horse Guards Parade.

The whole event lasted an hour and a half, and at the end the Queen Mother made a short speech of thanks saying it had been a wonderful afternoon and 'a great joy to me'. The crowd cheered, the National Anthem was sung again, and Queen Elizabeth got into her car to make a lap of honour past thousands of happy, cheering people before driving off to St James's Palace, where she climbed the stairs to the State Rooms and spent the next hour and a half at a reception, sitting down only to talk to the singer Dame Vera Lynn.

Two weeks later, on the morning of her actual hundredth birthday,4 August, a large crowd gathered outside her London home, Clarence House. The gates were opened and Queen Elizabeth came out to take the salute when the King's Troop, the Royal Horse Artillery, marched past. In front of the crowd the royal postman, Tony Nicholls, delivered her the traditional message sent by the Queen to all her subjects who reach their hundredth birthday. The Queen Mother started to open it and then passed it to her equerry. 'Come on, use your sword,' she said. Captain William de Rouet unsheathed his ceremonial blade and slit the envelope open. The message was written in the Queen's own hand and read, 'On your 100th birthday all the family join with me in sending you our loving best wishes for this special day. Lilibet'.

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