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Histories of Windsor

The Royal Pageant of the Horse,
5th July 1997

Planned to celebrate the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen & His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh,
but the weather had other ideas!

Adjacent to Queen Anne's Ride, on The Queen Victoria Review Ground, (also known as the Parade Ground), a large level area of grassland to the south of the A332 to Bracknell from Windsor, there was planned in 1997 a major 'Celebration of the Horse' to coincide with the the Golden Wedding Anniversary of The Queen and Prince Philip. Preparations had been in hand for a good year beforehand and in the two months prior to the event contractors had moved in to construct the stands, exhibition tents, stabling and peripheral facilities required for such a major spectacle.

But the weather was appalling throughout, with rain almost every day from May throughout June and the site turned into a quagmire. Although the arena itself was in reasonably good condition - contractors vehicles had been ordered to go around it and not cross it - the paths and access areas were deep in mud. When the photograph below was taken on the day the Pageant was cancelled, the area behind the stands, some twenty metres across and extending all around the arena, the mud was sometimes as much as 30cm deep, soft, and with the consistency of a thick Brown Windsor soup!

The showground with thick mud

The showground surrounded by thick mud

The cancellation came as a great disappointment to many, not least the Pony Club youngsters who had been practising for months. The Pageant was to have included displays and demonstrations of horsemanship from many aspects of English life including:

  • Horse Training
  • The Country Horse
  • The London Scene
  • The Horse at War and at Play
  • The Ceremonial Horse
  • The Performing Horse

Performers due to appear included The Bach Choir and the Massed Bands of the Household Division. There would be a star studded cast of readers to narrate the various chapters of horsemanship, including Prunella Scales, Keith Michell, Dame Diana Rigg, Peter Bowles, Bernard Cribbins, Anthony Andrews, Martin Jarvis, Peter 0'Sullevan and Liz Robertson. Over 4,000 people would be taking part and 1,000 horses.

That the event could not finally take place was sad indeed as it would have raised a considerable sum for military and equine charities. But also the Pageant would have provided a taste of what it might have been like in Victorian times when major celebratory events took place without concern for their cost, the concept being all.

The CD and tape produced for The Royal Pageant of the Horse

The book produced for The Royal Pageant of the Horse

The following is an extract from the booklet accompanying the tape and CD issued at the time featuring the music and readings to accompany the show. These had previously been recorded at CTS Studios and the Regent Hall in London by Carlton Home Entertainment.

The Golden Wedding Anniversary of The Queen and Prince Philip will be celebrated with the same joy which greeted their marriage in November 1947, when she was a beautiful Princess and he was a handsome naval officer.

In order to properly mark their 50-year marriage, an event had to be devised which would be on a scale large enough for the whole of Britain to enjoy but which would also reflect The Queen and Prince Philip's shared interests.

The Royal Pageant of the Horse, held at Windsor Great Park on 5th July 1997, is just such an event. An occasion which, in celebrating the couple's long and happy marriage, also celebrates something which they both hold dear - their love of horses.

The pageant itself needs no introduction. The 1,000 horses and 4,000 human participants - including some of Britain's most famous equestrian figures - mean that it will go down in history as one of the most elaborate and lavish royal events ever staged. It has been devised to show the role played by the horse in British life, but its various sections also illustrate the way horses have enriched the lives of The Queen and her husband.

Training for example, evokes not just young horses but also those who will grow up to ride them. The Queen, like all keen horse owners, takes a personal interest in the training of all her horses from the moment they are born. As a child she was schooled just as her foals and yearlings are. She was taught the art of horsemanship by her Father and Grandfather and inherited their love of horses, something which was apparent from the moment her governess found the young Princess sitting up in bed with two reins in her hand, driving an imaginary coach and four.

The Country Horse is just as appropriate. Both The Queen and Prince Philip are country people - they ride out on The Queen's estates at Balmoral and Sandringham - and enjoy nothing better than to hack across the countryside on their favourite mounts. Both are heavily involved in the running of their working estates in Scotland, Norfolk and Windsor.

Pageant First Day Covers

To celebrate the Pageant 2,500 First Day Covers had been produced and postmarked by the Post Office. They were offered at £12.50 each. However only those who had pre-ordered received them, some 300. 900 were retained for "regular collectors of the scarcest Special Gold Covers ever produced".The remaining 1,300 were destroyed.


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