ONE of the earliest pictures of Her present Majesty with her father the then Duke of York (here reproduced) was taken shortly after her birth in 1926 by Marcus Adams and is now part of a large collection kept at the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. The Queen is 60 on April 21 and will, on that day, be carrying out a tight and busy schedule.
In the morning she attends a special service of thansgiving at St George's Chapel, Windsor, followed by lunch at the Castle.
In the evening she will be present at a gala performance at Covent Garden. But the event that may well most warmly touch most hearts and imaginations will be occurring in the afternoon.
It has been arranged by the official Queen's Birthday Committee of which, before Christmas, I was asked to be a member. And it has naturally been fascinating to watch the plans for the occasion move steadily forward since that time.
The event in question is essentially a floral tribute to Her Majesty on the part of 6,000 children representing young people from every part of Great Britain and the Commonwealth.
The children will assemble on Horse Guards Parade, each bearing bouquets of daffodils provided by Messrs Spalding of Leicester.
They will march in formation up the Mall arriving outside Buckingham Palace, to be welcomed by the Queen, at about 4 pm. The procession will be led by two floats, one of which will be in the shape of a crown made from flowers. As the float approaches the Palace, the crown will open to release a number of carrier pigeons.
A large number of the children will have an opportunity to talk to the Queen who will walk about among them in the forecourt of the palace. The children will then sing "Happy Birthday to You," followed by another song specially composed for the occasion.
The children, televised by both TV companies, will then enjoy a huge tea party in Green Park. It is a day they are unlikely ever to forget.
The massive arrangements of transportation, marshalling and carrying out the operation have, as can be imagined, presented one or two formidable problems. But all have been overcome thanks largely to the generous and imaginative cooperation of the Bailiff of the Royal Parks and officials from the Department of the Environment.
As the music of five bands and the cries and singing of the 6,000 children fill the air round Buckingham Palace, it only remains for us meanwhile to pray that it doesn't pour with rain on the day.
What trill does for Juan
NO SOONER will the Queen have recovered from her birthday celebrations than she will be preparing to welcome the King and Queen of Spain on their State visit during which they will be staying at Windsor Castle.
The banquet at the Guildhall on April 23 will be a specially notable occasion to which I confess to be looking forward, as it will recall a similar function in 1905 at which the present King's grandfather, Alfonso XIII, made such a memorable impression.
That was the last official visit to Britain by a Spanish monarch, though King Juan Carlos and his beautiful wife, Queen Sofia, daughter of King Paul I of the Hellenes, have often been here privately.
As a matter of fact it was exactly 40 years ago, in April, 1946, when the then Infante Juan Carlos, as a boy of eight, first came to England, having been brought to stay at Claridges by his grandmother, Queen Ena, great-great aunt of our present Queen.
King Juan Carlos, apart from being delightful and intelligent, is also an excellent linguist. But his first language was French and it was his grandmother, Ena, who helped him to perfect his Spanish by being sure to trill his "r's" in the Spanish style rather than rasping them as the French do.
He became determined to master English, which he has done, as a result of his very first meeting with our Queen which took place at Balmoral when the young Prince was over on a visit with his father.
The Queen spoke to him in French and this fact, combined with her friendliness and charm, has made him her faithful fan ever since.
The Spanish Queen too has made many previous private visits to England, often staying with her brother, the ex-King of Greece who lives in Hampstead. Sharp-eyed observers have more than once spotted her while attending Mass at the church of St Thomas More, Swiss Cottage. This charming and exceptional couple are certain to captivate the hearts of all during their forthcoming visit.
`Read all about it'
TALKING of royalty, there has been a spate of books about them lately, notably the controversial life of the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth by Penelope Mortimer (Viking, £12.95).
It is excellently written and I liked the nugget that "The York-Bowes-Lyon was not broadcast, as the Archbishop of Canterbury [Randall Davidson] feared that men in pubs might listen to it with their hats on".
Also notable is The Ultimate Family (Michael Joseph, £12.95) in which John Pearson reveals how a successful PR campaign was launched by and around the Court nearly 20 years ago which for the first time advertised the "human" face of royalty and turned its members from sometimes faceless figures into glittering stars.
Essential reading, of course, is the seemingly omniscient Kenneth Rose's Kings, Queens and Courtiers (Wei den fe Id , £12.95) which gives brilliant thumbnail• sketches of every important person connected with the Royal family since the birth of the House of Windsor. A splendid achievement by a real expert.
Five points to remember
A READER who has paid many visits to Turin was there when the Holy Shroud was exposed in 1978. In that same year a strictly limited edition of a booklet was printed (about 50 copies only) which the reader in question had an opportunity to scan.
It seems strange that the booklet did not receive wider publicity since it contains five points of particular importance not always mentioned elsewhere. E The man of the Shroud had a sheet, whereas those executed in this way were usually thrown into ditches or abandoned to wild beasts.
j The man of the Shroud only remained a little time in the sheet, whereas it would be extremely unlikely for a dead man to be taken from his sheet, and, in the case of a Jew, it would be considered unclean to do so.
E The man of the Shroud was fixed with nails, whereas most crucified victims were tied only.
The man of the Shroud has wounds from a crown of thorns. This was extremely rare and only done later to some Christians as a form of mockery to make them resemble their Master.
El The man of the Shroud received a lance wound in his side and had unbroken legs, whereas the normal practice was to break the legs of the criminals being crucified.
Scouting for a guide?
WELCOME to the re-issue of that most useful booklet the
Catholic Wayside Guide, first published in 1964 with a foreword by Michael de la Bedoyere.
It is the best guide of its kind to all places of Catholic interest, past and present, in Wales and the West Country, and is edited by Pamela Hervey-Bathurst and Joan Taylor.
It mentions the story of the miraculous statue of "ye Iadye of ye burning taper" which suddenly appeared in the twelfth century on the banks of the Teifi and remained to draw pilgrims to Cardigan until its destruction at the Reformation. It is still commemorated by a wellknown shrine and statue (pictured here).
Copies of the booklet may be obtained (£2.30 post inc.) from Catholic Wayside Guide, c/o Post Office, Haworth, West Yorkshire.
A stronger constitution
WHY SHOULD the proposed Bill to reduce the number of bishops in the House of Lords and appoint representatives of other denominations in their stead possibly, as has been suggested, "embarrass the Queen"?
Mr Richard Holt, Conservative, Landbarugh, has been asked by the Commons Bill Office whether he now wishes the Home Secretary to consult the Queen over what is obviously a constitutional matter before his Ten Minute. Rule Bill on the subject can have its second reading on May 2.
What is being proposed is that 12 of the present 26 bishops and archbishops step down, their numbers being made up by other church leaders including the Catholic Archbishops of Westminster, Cardiff, Glasgow and Armagh.
The proposed reform would strengthen the House of Lords and any strengthening of that Chamber would surely be of ultimate benefit to the monarch and deter those who might wish to abolish it altogether, thus striking a possible mortal blow at the very principle of heredity.
A musical history
SOME time ago I mentioned the talented musician Cormac O'Duffy who composed A Dresden Requiem to mark the fortieth anniversary of the bombing of that town. He has now written an Oratorio called The Kingdom of God, a musical history of the Christian Church since Peter's confession to the second coming of Christ.
It will be performed in St Eugene's Cathedral, Derry, N Ireland on May 25 in conjunction with a special pilgrimage to that city being organised by the Cock fosters Prayer Group of which O'Duffy is a member.
Individuals and groups are being encouraged to join this pilgrimage of reconciliation and for further details may ring 01-886 5654 (daytime) or 01-886 1278 (evenings).