Queen Elizabeth II returns to Royal Ascot horse race after last year’s spectator hiatus

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II was smiling broadly as she attended the final day of the Ascot races on Saturday, where environmental protesters urged the monarch to press politicians to act faster against climate change.

The 95-year-old queen, a keen racing fan and racehorse owner, has attended Ascot almost every year of her seven-decade reign. She was absent last year, when the event was held without spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic. Her return came two months after the death of her husband, Prince Philip, at 99.

Dressed in a mint-green outfit and matching hat, the queen was applauded by the crowd as she arrived to cheer on four horses she owns that were racing on Saturday. She smiled broadly as she inspected one of her horses, Reach for the Moon, after it finished a close second.

Royal ride: Queen Elizabeth is back in the saddle, riding her pony without a helmet at Windsor Castle

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) smiles as she stands with racing manager John Warren on the fifth day of the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London on June 19, 2021. – Royal Ascot reopened its doors to 12,000 racing fans a day but the coronavirus will still take a significant financial toll on the event. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images) (Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP via Getty Images)

The annual racing meeting west of London is a heady mix of horses, extravagant headwear, fancy dress, champagne and strawberries with cream.

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Protesters from environmental group Extinction Rebellion unfurled a banner reading “Racing to Extinction” at the racecourse on Saturday. The group said four women glued themselves to their banner and chained themselves to the fence in a protest intended to be seen by the queen. She was not nearby at the time.

Last weekend the queen celebrated her official birthday after attending the annual Trooping the Colour celebration. 

The ceremony is a gift from the Household Division of army regiments, which has a close affinity with the monarch. It featured soldiers who have played an integral role in the COVID-19 response, as well as those who have been serving on military operations. She was seen beaming from ear to ear as the nine planes of the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows flew past in formation and let loose their red, white and blue smoke.

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