The Queen was honoured with a standing ovation as her platinum jubilee celebrations kicked off with a star-studded equestrian extravaganza featuring some of the world’s leading performers.
Hollywood actors Tom Cruise and Dame Helen Mirren – once again playing a queen of England – led the cast of entertainers who appeared in the first major event marking the Queen’s 70-year reign.
The audience rose to their feet applauding and cheering when the monarch arrived at the arena close to Windsor Castle for the musical and theatrical romp across the centuries called A Gallop Through History.
The event was staged by the Royal Windsor Horse Show, which has been welcoming spectators for the past three days including the Queen, who spent part of Friday touring the showgrounds after earlier missing the state opening of parliament.
Despite ongoing mobility issues, the Queen walked to her seat in the royal box after she was driven into the castle arena escorted by mounted divisions of the Household Cavalry.
She was joined by the Earl and Countess of Wessex for the show that reflected her lifelong passion for horses. A tri-service guard of honour featuring the Coldstream Guards, RAF Regiment and Royal Navy was in place for her arrival, which was signalled by the national anthem being played by military musicians.
Among the celebrities taking part in the show were Damian Lewis, Omid Djalili and Katherine Jenkins, in an all-star cast of British and international talent for Sunday’s performance which was broadcast live by ITV.
Cruise, best known for action film franchises Top Gun and Mission Impossible, told ITV presenters Phillip Schofield and Julie Etchingham that the Queen “is a woman I greatly admire”.
Cruise said: “What she has accomplished is historic. She has met presidents, world leaders, people from all walks of life.
“Not just Americans but the world knows the dignity, devotion and kindness, that is what I have always felt about her. Someone that understands her position and has held it through a history that’s just been extraordinary the past 70 years.”
The Queen sat in the royal box with a blanket over her knees and a shawl around her shoulders as Djalili, the herald and narrator of the performance, took the audience through key historical moments.
Mirren, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of the Queen in the film of the same name, played Queen Elizabeth I as the show began by chronicling the events of the first Elizabethan age, from the attempted invasion by the Spanish Armada to featuring leading figures of the day such as William Shakespeare.
Highlights included the Royal Cavalry of Oman filling the arena in their display of horsemanship, which had the Queen smiling, and the precision marching and rifle-handling skills of the King’s Guard of Norway.