By Elise Harris
Last year Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British history, and on Thursday she passed yet another milestone – becoming the first monarch to ever reach the age of 90.
Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 90th birthday April 21 by unveiling a special plaque on Windsor’s Queen’s Walkway before lighting the first in a series of beacons marking the special day. Official gun salutes could be heard throughout the U.K.
Numerous events marking the event are set to take place throughout the coming months, culminating with a national service of Thanksgiving, a parade and large picnic outside Buckingham Palace in June when the Queen’s “official” birthday is celebrated, following a longstanding monarchal tradition.
The Vatican itself has decided to mark the Queen’s birthday by playing a cricket match against the Royal Household at the Capannelle Ground in Rome this Saturday, April 23.
St. Peter’s Cricket Club was established in the fall of 2013, and will play the Royal Household as part of their round of spring matches. Made up of 12 priests, deacons and seminarians, the team is two-thirds Indian, with other members hailing from England, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Saturday will mark the second time the Vatican cricket team has played against the Royal Household. The first was Sept. 17, 2014, during their first international tour – the “Light of Faith Tour” in England.
The players were invited after to attend Evensong in Windsor’s Chapel of St. George, during the two teams offered prayers for Pope Francis and his ministry.
According to Vatican Radio, the Royal Household team on Friday morning visited St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums as part of their visit. Later that evening, Vespers was prayed at the International Pontifical College ‘Mater Ecclesiae,’ during which prayers were offered for the Queen in honor of her birthday.
Nigel Baker, British Ambassador to the Holy See, attended both the praying of Vespers as well as a special dinner during which the St. Peter’s Cricket Club presented a special gift for the Queen.
On Sunday, following Saturday’s match, Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy, will celebrate Mass at Rome’s Venerable English College. The Royal Household cricket team has been invited to attend the Mass before returning to England in the afternoon.
Other matches in this year’s spring season for St. Peter’s Cricket Club have included an April 9 game against the Nomads of England at Rome’s Capannelle Ground, which they won by 79 runs, and on April 16 they played against the Cross Keys of England, also at the Capannelle Ground.
The team will hold a second “Light of Faith Tour” in England this fall, running Sept. 11-20.
Additionally, the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has decided that at all Sunday Masses June 11-12, the Queen’s official birthday, each parish pray for her in honor of her 90th birthday by including the event in the intentions and by reciting the “Prayer for the Queen” prayer at the end of Mass.
The tradition of celebrating a monarch’s birthday twice a year – once on the day she was born and on an “official” birthday in June – dates back to George II in 1748, according to the Telegraph.
Since George was born in November, he thought the weather was too cold for his annual birthday parade, and decided instead to combine the celebration with the annual spring military parade, known as the Trooping the Colour, in which different regiments present their flags in order for soldiers to become familiar with them.
All British monarchs are given the option of having an “official” birthday, the Telegraph reports, and Queen Elizabeth has chosen to stick with tradition. This year’s Trooping the Color parade will take place June 11.