Star-studded lineup to join Queen at Royal Windsor Horse Show

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The Queen talking to Douglas Bunn, founder of The All England Jumping Course at Hickstead, at Royal Windsor Horse Show in 1964.
The Queen talking to Douglas Bunn, founder of The All England Jumping Course at Hickstead, at Royal Windsor Horse Show in 1964. © RWHS

The Royal Windsor Horse Show gets under way this week and will feature an evening theatrical arena spectacular “A Gallop through History” honouring Queen Elizabeth II’s love of horses and her 70 years of service to the country.

British actors Dame Helen Mirren, Damian Lewis, and Omid Djalili, and Hollywood’s Tom Cruise, lead an all-star cast of British and international talent for Sunday’s performance which will be broadcast live by ITV.

The Queen has attended every edition of the show since its inception in 1943. It was originally called the ‘Windsor Horse and Dog Show’ and set up to help raise funds for the war effort. In the first edition of the show, a young Princess Elizabeth won the Pony and Dogcart class.

The Royal Family will be in attendance each evening of the show from May 12 to 15, with the Queen expected to attend on Sunday, May 15.

The 90-minute phenomenon will showcase 500 horses, 1300 performers and a tri-service orchestra supported by members of the National Symphony Orchestra. The music has been specially curated by Musical Directors Debbie Wiseman OBE and Lieutenant Colonel Jason Burcham. The show takes the audience on a ‘Gallop through History’ – from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II – two of The United Kingdom’s most outstanding monarchs.

Before the royal arrival and show opening, The Corps of Drums of HM Royal Marines and Academy Voices, a Welsh Choir, will welcome the audience. The show will be officially opened by The Tri-Service Guard of Honour who will be accompanied by the Household Cavalry Mounted Band and Massed Pipes and Drums.

Act I, titled ‘Queen Elizabeth I’, focuses on Queen Elizabeth I, who was colloquially known as ‘Gloriana’, ‘Good Queen Bess’ and ‘The Virgin Queen’. Comedian Omad Djalili is the ‘Herald’, with Alan Titchmarch hosting the performance from Thursday to Saturday. He will be accompanied by special guest hosts on Sunday for the ITV broadcast. This Act will take the audience on a journey from the Spanish Armada through to Queen Elizabeth I’s poignant Tilbury Speech, as well as touching on the celebrities of the time including playwrights Williams Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. Both The Corps of Drums of HM Royal Marines and The Pony Club will feature in this section of the show; with The Pony Club acting as The Queen’s Messengers, bringing news to the Herald on the progress of the war with the Spanish Armada.

The Royal Cavalry of Oman will perform at the show on Thursday and Saturday afternoons.
The Royal Cavalry of Oman will perform at the show on Thursday and Saturday afternoons. © Royal Windsor Horse Show

‘The Crown, Lost and Found’, Act II, explores the era of James I, the Gunpowder Plot, the time of Oliver Cromwell, the death of Charles I and then return to the throne of Charles II – who will be escorted by The Household Cavalry Mounted Band. The Act will feature a segment on the Sun King (Louis XIV of France), which will include a performance from La Garde Republicaine from France. The impressive and mesmerising Household Cavalry Musical Ride will also be performing in this Act.

Act III – ‘The Crown Around the World’ – showcases the United Kingdom’s rich heritage of world exploration. The act will celebrate Great Britain’s most famous explorers including Edmund Hilary, Walter Raleigh, Francis Drake, James Cook, Captain Bligh, Scott of the Antarctic, David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley. International displays include the Secret Drum Corps [Switzerland], Kings Guard of Norway, The Royal Cavalry of Oman, Emerald Storm [Northern Ireland], The Bollywood Company [India], Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra, The Santa Siberian Huskies and Azerbaijan – Land of Fire. In addition, crowds are sure to be entertained by two comedy characters, Barrington and Billington, who will be present throughout the Act.

Act IV, ‘One United Kingdom under One Crown’, celebrates the strength of the Home Nations and Commonwealth, as well as Queen Elizabeth II and her many achievements. These will be honoured by performances from the Kings Troop, Massed Pipes and Drums, Dancers of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Emerald Storm and the Academy Voices (Welsh Choir). The act will end in the most fitting way, focusing on The Queen’s love of horses. The finale of this segment of the performance will feature a parade of State Coaches and Royal Carriages and The Queen’s show horses and ponies, including Bybeck Katie and Bybeck Nightingale, the two striking greys featured in the official image celebrating the Queen’s 96th birthday.

Rounding off the 90-minute spectacle will be an almighty ‘Three Cheers’, along with Queen Elizabeth I addressing and thanking Queen Elizabeth II. Dame Helen Mirren will play the part of Queen Elizabeth II during Sunday’s performance.

International acts

Show Director Simon Brooks-Ward said the many international acts travelling to Windsor to take part in the Platinum Jubilee Celebration will also be featuring at Royal Windsor Horse Show. “It’s an excellent opportunity for the crowd to witness rarely seen performances, created especially for Her Majesty The Queen, in what is set to be a momentous year for the show.”

The Royal Cavalry of Oman, founded in 1974 by the late Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, will perform in the Castle Arena on Thursday and Saturday afternoons. With 89 horses, comprising of 86 purebred Arabian two Shire drum horses and one Hanoverian charger ridden by the mounted band conductor, the display is set to be a true spectacle. It will embrace traditional Omani culture, including a carriage entering the arena dispensing Frankincense to produce an ‘Essence of Oman’ atmosphere. Their traditional display will culminate with horses both lying down in the sleeping position and seated, before the riders depart the arena.

Members of the Equestrian Federation of Azerbaijan will perform "Land of Fire" with Karabakh horses on Friday and Sunday.
Members of the Equestrian Federation of Azerbaijan will perform “Land of Fire” with Karabakh horses on Friday and Sunday. © Royal Windsor Horse Show

Created especially for Royal Windsor Horse Show, ‘Land of Fire’ – Azerbaijan and the Karabakh Horse will be performed by members of the Equestrian Federation of Azerbaijan on Friday and Sunday. This will consist of 15 horses and riders performing impressive movements on the Karabakh horses at a gallop. The aim of the display is to showcase the cultural heritage of the region, and demonstrate the heroism, courage and peacefulness of the Azerbaijan people.

The King’s Guard Norway, who are steeped in history, will perform on Saturday. The military band will perform its celebrated drill, which is paraded at military tattoos across the world.

Joining the exclusive line-up of acts is La Garde Républicaine. On Sunday afternoon, the French Calvary will perform the historical “Maison du Roy”, which originally featured horses from the stables of Versailles in the time of King Louis XV. The act will feature 12 cavaliers dressed in historical uniforms from the Louis XV era, with six riders wearing red and gold uniforms to represent the Garde ordinaire du Roy, and the six others dressed as the Garde municipale de Paris with their blue and silver uniforms.

During some of the showjumping course builds, the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Band will play on the stage in the Castle arena. The band has won numerous awards and is sure to keep the crowds entertained between classes. Away from the Castle Arena, guests can also watch impressive acts on the South Lawn including The Acro-Chaps and Mine Artist, Les Bubb.

These acts will join national favourites, such as the Musical Ride of The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and the DAKS Pony Club Mounted Games on the Royal Windsor Horse Show roster. Both will also have a pivotal role in the evening Platinum Jubilee Celebrations.

The Queen attending Royal Windsor Horse Show in 1953, the year of her Coronation.
The Queen attending Royal Windsor Horse Show in 1953, the year of her Coronation. © RWHS

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