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 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:
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 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.
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.