Queen Elizabeth II’s passion for horses started when she touched a horse’s neck

In a new book which marks Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne, Sir Michael Morpurgo explains the origin of her lifelong love for horses. Sir Michael Morpurgo is a children’s author and he was having lunch at Buckingham Palace. He sat next to the Queen and they chatted about horses. She explained to him her lifelong passion for them. It began when she was a child. She stroked the neck of a pony which she said felt like “warm velvet”.

Queen's passion for horses started when she touched a horse's neck

Queen’s passion for horses started when she touched a horse’s neck. Image: Getty Images.

Sir Michael Morpurgo’s new book is titled There Once Is a Queen. He is also a former children’s laureate. The book will be published next month and it has been an inspiration for parts of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee pageant.

During that lunch, Sir Michael asked the Queen what had sparked her love for horses. He recalls that, “She mentioned that she had been riding ponies for some time and then her daddy had given her for a birthday, a horse. She told me how it was to walk down to the yard and there was this horse and she would reach up and touch the neck.”

And in his book Sir Michael writes: “Whenever she went to saddle her horse to go for a ride, she would reach up and lay her hand on his neck, which felt to her like warm velvet.”

It’s believed that the Queen is referring to her first Shetland pony, Peggy, a fourth birthday gift from her grandfather, George V.

And in the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace when she was three, she learned to ride and was able to ride alone at the age of six.

Sir Michael, 78, said: “Those were the words she used. She talked very, very movingly about her love for this horse. This was a life-changing moment. From that moment on, horses were going to be part of her life.”

Comment: reading these words it strikes me that the Queen has a love of animals. A love which is far wider than a single species of animal. I think she has an inherent gentleness within her. And a tenderness towards animals. It is disappointing, therefore, to see that the Royal family still goes on shooting expeditions in which they kill birds for pleasure. I suppose that the royal family inherited the habit but it must have clashed with her general feelings about animals.

Sir Michael said that they had a very easy-going and relaxed conversation, much of it about horses. The Queen liked the play War Horse, which touched her hugely, he said. The Queen really loved the play and the puppet of Joey. Morpurgo felt that when the Queen was with horses “all her troubles fall away”.

Behind closed doors when he was with a less formal Queen, he felt during some moments that he was not looking at the Queen. She became a granny and a real person who likes to talk. He said that “behind all this [the Royal family image and perceived lifestyle] is a rather wonderful granny trying to get out and find a little bit of connection with people”. He found that to be a revelation.

Source: I am indebted to Roya Nikkhah’s article in The Sunday Times of 24th April 2022.

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