Royal best in show
Saddle up, we're diving into the Royal Windsor Horse Show archives to take a peek at the Queen and fam.
If you get your kicks from the whiff of saddle leather and rubbing shoulders with royalty, then the Royal Windsor Horse Show is make you giddy with excitement. The show is something of a big deal, having started in 1943 as a one day charity dog and horse show in aid of the war effort to the 5 day extravaganza it is today, attracting the best of the best riders, like Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester with their four legged rock stars.
But the biggest celebs come with a crown. Yes, Her Majesty the Queen, has attended every show since its creation (well it’s in her back garden at Windsor Castle), and competed in few, as have Prince Phillip, Prince Charles, Princess Anne and Zara Phillips. When I worked in newspapers, we loved this event – great for a snap of the young and old HRHs being, well er, normal.
This year marks the show’s 75th anniversary,and with Prince Harry and Meghan walking up the aisle a few days later, I’m expecting a cracking turnout. But I’ve been rifling through the archives to bring you my fave snaps. Saddle up, let’s canter through the decades…
The first show took place on Wednesday 26 May 1943 and raised £391,197 – enough money to buy 78 Typhoon fighter aircraft. A full deck of Royals attended King George VI, Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) and the two young princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret. Legend has it that a disobedient Lurcher stole a chicken leg from King George VI’s plate during the ceremonies – and from that day dogs were banned, a ruling that still stands to this day.
Hello handsome – and the rider’s not bad either. There are not many horse shows with a backdrop as dramatic as Windsor Castle and the queen is looking spot on for SS18 way back in 1952. One to dig out of the archives this year, ma’am. Lots of post war changes – BBC broadcast live for the first time, floodlit evening performances were introduced and the show went global, with international competitors taking part in an 8 day festival.
When the Queen wasn’t doing the day job, meeting JFK and Jackie Kennedy, handing out MBEs to The Beatles and anointing Charles as Prince of Wales in a fancy schmancy Westminster Abbey ceremony, she also gave birth to her fourth child. Prince Edward arrived in 1964. A year later, the Royal Windsor Horse Show was cancelled because of an outbreak of equine flu. Judging by the look on her face, Her Maj was not best pleased.
While Prince Charles was playing romantic roulette to find a bride, Princess Anne was riding the Seventies roller coaster. In 1973 she competed in the Royal Windsor Horse Show international show jumping competition, coming 4th, before joining the GB eventing team at the 1976 Olympics. Throw in a kidnap attempt in 1974 when a gunman opened fire on her car as she and hubby Captain Mark Phillips headed home, and you could say it was not without drama. The Duke of Edinburgh also started competing in the International Carriage Driving at the show in 1973 and didn’t retire from until 2003.
While the rest of us were wrestling with leg warmers and lace gloves, the Royal Family were coming to terms Diana and Fergie. Diana married into the firm in 1981 (with Charles’ ex Camilla among the guests (awks), watched by 750million people on their telly boxes. Fergie appeared on the scene with Andrew in 1983, and were very much together at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. They said their ‘I dos’ at Westminster Abbey in 1986. Ah, the calm long before the emotional tsunami of the 90s. At least the Queen’s horses and her hubby were on a winning streak at the RWHS’s International Driving Grand Prix.
The decade the Queen would rather forget. While the Royal Windsor Horse Show celebrated 50 years with an anniversary ball in May 1992, it became known as the ‘annus horribilus’. Diana’s marriage to Charles was on the rocks, Princess Anne divorced, and Prince Andrew and Fergie separated. To top it off, the family home, Windsor Castle, went up in flames. In happier news, Prince Edward had found ‘the one’ in Sophie Rhys Jones. But the Nineties was to be defined by Diana’s death in 1997.
New Millennium, new beginnings. The Queen Mother turned 100, the horse show was cancelled due to foot and mouth (boo hiss). But the Champagne corks were popping in honour of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002, 80th birthday in 2006 and the Queen and Prince Phillip’s 60th wedding anniversary was celebrated with a parade of vintage Land Rovers in 2007.
As the younger royals have married and had their own nippers, the Royal Windsor Horse Show has become something of a Royal Family tradition. Edward and Sophie’s daughter Lady Louise now competes, you often see Peter Philips ands wife Autumn with the littlies face planting an ice cream or perched on top of a podgy pony. There’s lots of brilliant riders and drivers, you can’t beat catching a glimpse of the Queen, beaming when she’s surrounded by horses.
Royal Windsor Horse Show runs from Wed 9 – Wed 16 May. Muddy readers get your mitts on discounted general entry tickets with up to £5 off using the code MUDDY – book online at www.rwhs.co.uk or by calling the box office on 0844 581 4960. Under 16s go free Wed-Fri. Under 3s, free all week.