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APRIL 2016

Unlike her great great grandmother Queen Victoria, who was famously 'not amused', Queen Elizabeth II is. She likes 'Dad's Army', 'The Two Ronnies' and collects comic pepper grinders; one - a gift from an Italian restaurant - is in the shape of a waiter. When you turn his head he shouts in an Italian accent –'Hey! You's a-givin' me a pain in the neck1'

We have just published a pack of cards to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen's 90th birthday. It is called, logically, HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN.

Queen Elizabeth Playing Cards Queen Elizabeth Playing Cards

Publisher Nicky Bird, a member of the Royal United Services Institute, writes:

On April 21, 1947, Princess Elizabeth gave a 21st birthday radio address in which she averred: 'I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service…'

She has been true to her word.

She was not born to rule. Her father, the stammering, diffident Duke of York was thrust on the throne as George VI when his elder brother Edward VIII chose Wallis Simpson over duty, and abdicated in 1936. It was just as well for the nation. Edward's sympathy for Hitler was apparent, particularly to the PM Stanley Baldwin, whose subtle machinations speeded Edward's exit. George was a good king and good for Britain but the strain of unwonted kingship (and heavy smoking) ruined his health and he died in 1952 while Princess Elizabeth, who had married the handsome, penniless Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark in 1947, was in Kenya. She now became Queen Elizabeth II, and was crowned in Westminster Abbey in June 1953 on a memorably wet day. While the event was being planned she had to deal with her sister Princess Margaret's proposal to marry the divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend. The Queen handled this constitutional (and PR) crisis with customary assurance, advising a delay (in the hope that ardour would cool) and pointing out to Margaret that she would lose royal privileges and rights of succession. Her sister opted to keep her privileges.

The Suez crisis in 1956 tested her judgment. The PM, Anthony Eden, sent her all the papers, the first time she was shown such confidential material. But secret collusion between Britain, France and Israel was not disclosed. However, she was aware that the Foreign Secretary, Selwyn Lloyd, had flown to Sèvres and she guessed the reason. She could have intervened (Lord Mountbatten claimed she opposed the invasion), protesting this squalid and illegal act, or made it public, in which case the government would have fallen. But she did not. Another crisis has yet to be explained: in 1959 the Cabinet discussed the royal family on three occasions but the subjects were so sensitive that one item was embargoed for 50 years and the other two for 100! The normal rule is 30 years. If the royal marriage was strained thankfully their mutual support and love proved enduring. They are both dutiful and patriotic (the mostly German Prince Philip became a naturalised British subject in 1947). They love sport, but different ones. She has a passion for horse racing – particularly the breeding side – and he loves cricket, polo and carriage driving. She is reserved and tactful. He is not. A trait he shares with his daughter Anne.

She is dutiful, and she is brave. Who can forget her patiently calming an intruder in 1982 who sat on her bed in Buckingham Palace with a piece of broken glass. I witnessed the moment the year before when a madman fired six shots at Her Majesty as she rode down The Mall to the Trooping the Colour cermony. She did not know they were blanks. She did not flinch. A noble Queen indeed.

Happy Birthday Ma'am!

  ‘Superb, imaginative cards - BEAUTIFULLY DESIGNED AND PRESENTED - to enliven the dullest bridge hand, and make even Old Maid seem fun...’
LBC ‘I loved Willie Rushton's caricatures of our Royal Family in his PACK OF ROYALS. And I am naturally excited by the rare photos unearthed for my own pack devoted to my Grandfather WINSTON CHURCHILL - in his finest hour, the war years’
Celia Sandys, Churchill's granddaughter, who selected the Imperial War Museum photos that appear on every card in CHURCHILL: WALKING WITH DESTINY ‘Bird Playing Cards - particularly the ART PACK, THE NUDE and ART DETAIL - are a brilliant and amusing trip through the history of western painting, a lovely way to learn...’
Rachel Barnes, National Gallery lecturer, author and broadcaster