LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II thanked the public on Wednesday for their support following the death of Prince Philip, as she turned 95 and marked her birthday without her husband of more than seven decades.
“My family and I would like to thank you all for the support and kindness shown to us in recent days,” she said in a statement signed “Elizabeth R.” (The initial stands for regina, or queen in Latin.)
In her first public comments since Philip’s funeral, Elizabeth added that while the family was “in a period of great sadness,” it was a “comfort” to receive tributes paid to her husband from Britain, the Commonwealth and around the world.
“We have been deeply touched, and continue to be reminded that Philip had such an extraordinary impact on countless people throughout his life,” she said.
The queen’s birthday comes just four days after the funeral of Philip, whom she hailed as her “strength and stay” throughout her reign and their 73 years of marriage.
This year’s birthday is unlike any other for the monarch. It is a private and subdued affair — a stark contrast to the ostentatious public spectacles that the British public is accustomed to. There will be no traditional gun salutes echoing out at Hyde Park or the Tower of London, and there will be no release of an official portrait or new photos of the queen, which are often shared by Buckingham Palace on special royal occasions.
Last June, the palace released a photo of Prince Philip and the queen to mark his 99th birthday. On Elizabeth’s 90th birthday, the palace released three official photos taken by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz.
The royal family confirmed Wednesday that the queen, who was born April 21, 1926, would spend the day at Windsor Castle, where she continues to observe the royal mourning period of two weeks, which began on the date Philip died, April 9. The queen has been isolating at Windsor Castle since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic with a small staff.
She expressed gratitude for the many birthday messages that have poured in.
“I have, on the occasion of my 95th birthday today, received many messages of good wishes, which I very much appreciate,” the queen said in her statement.
Rebecca English, royal editor at the Daily Mail, said the queen would spend the day being visited by family members and walking her dogs.
The queen has two birthdays — her actual birthday, April 21, which she celebrates privately, and her “official” one, usually held in June, called Trooping the Colour, a dazzling military parade that culminates with a gaggle of royals on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, cranking their heads skyward to watch a flypast by the Royal Air Force.
Massive crowds usually gather outside the gates of the palace to take in the spectacle. Last month, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the official birthday parade in London would not go ahead. It was also canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Britain particularly hard.
But plans are being considered for a smaller, more low-key event this summer in the quadrangle at Windsor Castle. Last year, a scaled-down event — dubbed “mini Trooping” — was held at the castle and televised by the BBC.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted his “warm wishes” to the queen on Wednesday and said he was “proud” to serve as her prime minister. Johnson is the 14th prime minister to serve under her long reign of almost 70 years. London Mayor Sadiq Khan also paid tribute to Elizabeth, along with the Commonwealth’s official Twitter account.
“We honour her decades of service devoted to our worldwide family, and offer our heartfelt condolences during this difficult time,” the association wrote.
Before the death of Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, earlier this month, British media reported that the queen had wanted his 100th birthday celebrations in June to be the focus of this year’s royal celebrations.
Over the weekend, members of the British public expressed concern for the queen, who was forced to sit alone during the funeral ceremony at St. George’s Chapel because of England’s stringent coronavirus restrictions. Many sympathized with her, while others remained in awe at her strength in the face of loss.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, who flew back to the United Kingdom from his home in the United States to say goodbye to his grandfather, is believed to have returned to California to be reunited with pregnant wife Meghan and son, Archie, ahead of his grandmother’s birthday.
Harry and Meghan’s recent bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey revealed a generational divide in support for some members of the royal family. A YouGov poll after the interview showed that Britons younger than 25 were more likely to feel sympathy for Harry and Meghan while those over 65 were more likely to side with the queen and other senior members of the royal family.
The queen’s 94th birthday last year was spent in isolation at Windsor Castle with Philip. The gun salutes were also canceled that day, as Britain was under its first nationwide lockdown.
British media reported that the queen will return to the public stage next month for the state opening of Parliament, alongside eldest son and heir to the throne Prince Charles.