Queen felt most relaxed. But it wasn’t the dog-patterned headscarf that caught the eye as she enjoyed the action at the Royal Windsor Horse Show; it’s her smile and the message she conveys.
Just 11 weeks after Prince Philip’s funeral, when he looked so frail and sad alone in his pew in St George’s Chapel, his face hidden behind a mask, the change was stark.
But a look back at the Queen’s public and private gatherings since that sad April day reveals a degree of calm, as if a great burden had been lifted from her.
And the way that has happened. As anyone who has witnessed the slow physical decline of a loved one knows, their death can often bring a sense of relief.
April 17: Queen Elizabeth takes her seat during the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle
June 11: The Queen attends The Big Lunch Initiative at The Eden Project in Cornwall
June 12: Queen Elizabeth II attends a military parade held by the Household Division at the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle, to mark her official birthday on June 12
Even though the Queen had been preparing herself for some time for the day when Philip would no longer be around, it didn’t make losing him any easier. But that makes it more bearable.
He, of course, has an extraordinary reserve of resilience, matched by an unshakable sense of responsibility.
These are the qualities, along with the ability to avoid adversity and strong faith, that have helped him overcome countless setbacks since he was elevated to the throne following the death of his father when he was only 25 years old.
Even so, his performance at the G7 summit in Cornwall, exactly eight weeks after Philip’s funeral, was extraordinary. It’s not just the smile and warmth that he exudes among some of the most bombastic personalities on the planet, but his great humor as well.
As the world’s top economic leaders jostle for official photos, he asks, ‘Are you supposed to have fun?’ with a knowing grin.
The subtext is clear: even if he doesn’t, he certainly is. And his observations showed that he had come out of his mourning period and was ready to participate fully in the affairs of the kingdom.
June 19: Queen Elizabeth II, wearing her Cartier diamond Palm Leaf Brooch, belonging to the Queen Mother, attends the fifth day of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse
June 30: Queen Elizabeth II visits the Children’s Wood Project, a community project in Glasgow as part of her traditional trip to Scotland for Holyrood Week
More interestingly, perhaps it shows that she will accept Philip’s absence even more directly than we thought. For decades, it was he who paved the way for her; who breaks the ice when he dives into a meeting knowing all eyes are on him.
He does it with jokes here, slightly lewd comments there, and he’s always grateful for that. At Carbis Bay, he warms up and the main event is merged into one.
Philip’s retirement has given him time to adjust to doing things alone. But as long as he’s on the other end of the phone after a tiring day, the world’s most famous stunt double can still work behind the scenes.
Covid changed everything but, most importantly, it brought unexpected dividends as she and Philip were together for the last 13 months of her life.
The two often discuss how each will cope without the other by their side, and it boils down to this: whoever is left should mourn, but not for too long, then enjoy what’s left of their lives.
The smiles we saw in Cornwall have been replicated at every public appearance since. From the intimate, scaled-down Trooping the Color ceremony at Windsor Castle to finally making it to the racetrack for the final day of Royal Ascot.
Her love of horse racing is no secret, but the success of the Queen’s breeding program means she has seven runners during Ascot Week and several winners elsewhere.
‘It has all helped to cheer him on to no end,’ said a racing buddy. ‘He missed Prince Philip very much, but he was prepared for his death. Caring deeply for someone whose health is declining is always exhausting and I’m sure it’s no different for Your Majesty.’
Nineteen years ago, the deaths of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret had a similarly emancipatory effect on the Queen, who was able to happily celebrate her 2002 Golden Jubilee celebrations.
July 1: Queen Elizabeth II smiles warmly at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, Windsor
July 2: Queen Elizabeth II is seen driving her Range Rover while attending the second day of the Royal Windsor Horse Show
July 4: Queen beams at the fourth day of the Royal Windsor Horse Show at Home Park
Freedom from lockdowns and easing of Covid restrictions, after months of virtual engagement, have played their part too.
Hosting the Prime Minister for an audience at Buckingham Palace – the first since March last year – saw him with great (and mischievous) fervor, with banter about then Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
The same enthusiasm was evident when he traveled to Edinburgh and met Nicola Sturgeon during a four-day stint in Scotland.
In a busy week, he also hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, before ending it with one of her favorite shows of the year, the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
In three weeks she started her first summer vacation in Scotland without Philip. It would start at Craigowan Lodge before he moved to Balmoral Castle two weeks later.
More testing time lies ahead. At Christmas, for example, Philip will not be by his side as he distributes gifts to staff.
Slowly and surely, most of the heavy lifting of the monarchy was passed on to others. But at the age of 95, the Queen is proof that life can still provide fresh adventures every day.