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What is it with royals and their horses?

by Daphne MacDonald

James Gray / Daily Mail / Shutterstock

Members of the British Royal Family love their horses! They’ve spent most of their lives caring for horses, enjoying horseback riding, and playing horse-related sports. These captured moments of royals and their horses span from early childhood to adulthood and highlight significant times in their lives.

Prince William

David Hartley / Shutterstock

A young Prince William is seen on horseback taking part in a 1989 gymkhana in Gloucestershire. According to Merriam-Webster, a gymkhana is “a meet featuring sports contests or athletic skills… such as competitive games on horseback.” According to the Olean Times Herald, Prince Charles taught his son, William, to play polo at a young age.

Prince Harry and Prince William

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This photo from 1990 shows Prince Harry and Prince William riding horses at Sandringham. According to a Town & Country article by Chanel Vargas, Sandringham Castle is the private country home of Queen Elizabeth II located in Norfolk, England. The royals spend many special occasions at Sandringham, most notably, Christmas.

Queen Elizabeth II

Joan Williams / Shutterstock

Queen Elizabeth II is seen patting her horse during the Trooping the Colour ceremony in June 1969. Trooping the Colour marks the official birthday of the British monarch. Caroline Hallemann explains in Town & Country that this tradition started in 1748 when King George II “combined the annual summer military march with his birthday celebration — even though he was born in October. Ever since, the reigning monarch has had the option of having an official birthday in the summertime.” So, even though her birthday is on April 21, the Queen throws an annual birthday parade in June.

Prince Harry and Prince Charles

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While on horseback, Prince Harry watches his dad play polo at Cirencester Park in 1998. According to an NBC News article, Prince Charles retired from the sport after playing for more than 40 years, but not before passing on his love for the game to his sons, who have continued to play into adulthood.

Prince Charles

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Prince Charles is seen on horseback in June 1972. He was also serving in the Royal Navy at the time. The military branch reports that from 1971 to 1972, “His Royal Highness served in the guided missile destroyer HMS Norfolk” and from 1972 to 1973 “in the [frigate] HMS Minerva.”

Prince Harry

David Hartley / Shutterstock

This January 2002 photo shows Prince Harry taking part in the annual Beaufort Hunt near Tetbury, Gloucestershire. According to Joe Duggan’s Express article, Prince Charles and his sons often took part in this New Year’s Day tradition. BBC News reports that the Beaufort Hunt started in the 17th century. The controversial fox hunt has since faced backlash from the public, and in 2005, a ban on hunting with hounds came into effect in England.

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret

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A 17-year-old Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) is seen with her sister Princess Margaret and their pets in 1943. According to an article by Vikki Hawkins for The National WWII Museum’s website,during World War II, Elizabeth took part in “the government’s ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign, in which people were urged to use gardens and every spare piece of land to grow vegetables to help combat food shortages.”

Prince Charles

Reginald Davis / Shutterstock

A young Prince Charles is seen riding his pony through the woods at Badminton in 1961. According to an NBC News article, Prince Charles learned to horseback ride at the age of six. He once said, “I will go on as long as I bounce when I fall off.” He started playing polo at the age of 15 and suffered a few falls, a concussion, and a broken arm during his polo career. The Prince retired from the sport at age 57, perhaps because he could no longer bounce when he fell off his horse.

Prince Edward and Princess Anne

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Prince Charles’s younger siblings, Prince Edward and Princess Anne, are seen riding on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk during a Christmas holiday visit on December 30, 2008. Stephanie Petit’s People article recalls that Princess Anne is the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.She was born about a year before Elizabeth became England’s new monarch.

Prince Philip

Reginald Davis/Shutterstock

This 1961 photo shows Prince Philip playing polo at Smith’s Lawn, Windsor Park. Like his son Prince Charles and his grandsons, Princes Harry and William, Prince Philip loved horses and polo. According to a Pololine article, Philip founded the Guards Polo Club and won the British Open Gold Cup twice.

Queen Elizabeth II

David Steen / Daily Mail / Shutterstock

The Queen is seen taking part in the Annual Royal Race before the official start at Royal Ascot in 1961. According to Steven Stolman’s Town & Country article, the Royal Ascot was founded by Queen Anne in 1711. The annual horse race is held each June at the Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire. It is considered a “major event on the British social calendar” and “remains a heady mix of pomp, tradition, fashion, class distinction and, of course, sport.”

Queen Elizabeth II

Reginald Davis / Shutterstock

Queen Elizabeth II is seen presenting a prize at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 1962. According to show organizers, this event started in 1943 as the Windsor Horse and Dog Show to raise funds for the war effort. However, dogs were banned from the Showground after the first year when “a lurcher stole a piece of chicken from King George V’s lunch plate… (and) the Committee found this so mortifying.”

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and Princess Anne

H Wallace / Daily Mail / Shutterstock

Queen Elizabeth II is seen with her corgi and her two eldest children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, at an equestrian event in 1956. Princess Anne went on to have a noteworthy equestrian career according to Tim Ott’s Biography article. She began competing publicly at age 11, eventually becoming the first British royal to win gold at the European Eventing Championships, take home the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Award, and be selected to the British Olympic equestrian team.

Prince Harry and Princess Diana

James Gray / Daily Mail / Shutterstock

In this photo taken on New Year’s Eve 1987, Prince Diana walks beside 3-year-old Prince Harry as he sits on a pony for an early introduction to horse riding at the Sandringham Estate during the Christmas holidays. Harry would eventually become an avid polo player when he got older. In fact, both he and Prince William competed in “several charity matches each summer,” according to Simon Perry’s People article. Harry also played polo for his charity, Sentebale, an organization which works to support “the mental health and wellbeing of young people whose lives have been affected by HIV in southern Africa.”

Lady Mary Cambridge and Elizabeth Mackinlen

Daily Mail / Shutterstock

In this 1938 photo, Lady Mary Cambridge (later Lady Mary Whitley) leads Elizabeth Mackinlen on Katinka. According to Annabelle Spranklen’s Tatler article, Mary was a bridesmaid to Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) at her wedding to Prince Philip in 1947.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

George Elam / ANL/ Shutterstock

Queen Elizabeth II is seen smiling at Prince Philip during the 1954 Trooping the Colour Horse Guards Parade. This royal couple was married for more than 70 years, having “the longest-enduring marriage in British royal history,” according to Sara Kettler’s Biography article.

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon

Reginald Davis/Shutterstock

Princess Margaret is seen with her husband, Lord Snowdon, on a farm in Tucson, Arizona, in 1965. Queen Elizabeth II’s sister visited Tucson with her husband as part of a three-week US tour, according to #ThisIsTucson. They spent part of their trip with horses at a ranch in Sonoita.

Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret

Historia / Shutterstock

Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret greet the famous Foxhunter during the British Horse Society’s Olympic Horse Trials at Badminton in 1952. Foxhunter helped his three-person showjumping team win gold at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, “Britain’s only gold medal of the Games,” according to Penny Richardson’s Horse & Hound article.

The Duke of Gloucester, Princess Elizabeth, and Mr. Owen

Historia / Shutterstock

This 1935 photo was taken at Windsor Great Park and shows Princess Elizabeth riding with her uncle, Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester (left), and Mr. Owen. Jamie Samhan’s Royal Central article recalls that Prince Henry was the third son of King George V and Queen Mary.

Queen Elizabeth II

Historia / Shutterstock

Queen Elizabeth II is pictured on horseback in a Grenadier Guards uniform in 1953. Vikki Hawkins wrote for The National WWII Museum that on her sixteenth birthday in 1942, “Princess Elizabeth undertook her first inspection of a military regiment during a parade at Windsor Castle. She had been given the role of honorary colonel of the Grenadier Guards, which symbolized her military involvement in the war effort.”

Princess Elizabeth and Mr. Owen

Historia / Shutterstock

Princess Elizabeth rides in Windsor Great Park with Mr. Henry Owen, the Duke of York’s Royal Groom, in 1934. According to Madeleine Silver’s Horse & Hound article, when Princess Elizabeth was four, her grandfather, King George V, gave her a Shetland pony named Peggy. Mr. Owen then gave her riding lessons as a child.

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret

Historia / Shutterstock

Princess Elizabeth is seen with her younger sister Princess Margaret on a rocking horse in 1937. The two were quite different. Elizabeth was responsible, while Margaret was a royal rebel, “seen as a royal wild child and the black sheep of the royal family,” according to Sara Kettler’s Biography article.

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Prince Philip, and Princess Anne

Historia / Shutterstock

This 1955 photo shows the royal family with their horses at Balmoral. Prince Charles leads his pony William, Princess Anne holds Greensleeves, and Prince Philip pats their horses. Amy Hunt writes on Woman & Home that Balmoral Castle is the Queen’s summer holiday home in Scotlandand has been in the royal family since Prince Albert bought it in 1852.

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret

Historia / Shutterstock

Princess Margaret watches as Princess Elizabeth feeds a blinkered donkey at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. Event organizers report that at the first show, Princess Elizabeth “won the Pony and Dogcart class. Since then Her Majesty has entered many homebred horses and ponies in classes at the show.”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle greet a pony in Edinburgh, Scotland, during a 2018 visit to Edinburgh Castle. According to a BBC News article, their visit was part of a public engagement leading up to their May 19 wedding of the same year. This was “their first official joint appearance in Scotland.”

Princess Elizabeth

Historia / Shutterstock

This June 15, 1934, photo shows Princess Elizabeth meeting a champion pony at the Richmond Horse Show. The Royal Family’s website recalls that the following year, her dad became King George VI “unexpectedly following the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII” and that “his greatest achievements came during the Second World War, when he remained for most of the time at Buckingham Palace (the Palace was bombed nine times during the war).”

Prince Harry and Meghan

FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

Prince Harry, alongside his wife Meghan, caresses a horse in Rabat, Morocco, during an official visit to the country in February 2019. Amy Mackelden reports in Harper’s Bazaar that they also visited the Moroccan Royal Federation of Equestrian Sports “to find out how the organization supports children and young people with disabilities and additional learning needs.”

Princess Diana

Shutterstock

A 13-year-old Diana Spencer is seen sitting with a miniature horse at her mother’s home in Scotland during the summer of 1974. The following year, she became Lady Diana Frances Spencer “when her father inherited his Earldom,” according to the Royal Family’s website. The future Princess of Wales had two older sisters and a younger brother and grew up to be a humanitarian loved by many around the world.

Princess Elizabeth

Everett / Shutterstock

Princess Elizabeth is seen with a white pony on her thirteenth birthday in 1939. Many decades later, she still loves riding horses. Stephanie Petit reports in People that in 2020, at the age of 94, she was seen on horseback at Windsor Castle, Horseback riding has helped the Queen get out and stay busy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Princess Elizabeth

Everett / Shutterstock

An 18-year-old Princess Elizabeth is seen with her horse at Sandringham in April 1944. A National WWII Museum website article by Vikki Hawkins states that when she turned 18 that year, “she insisted upon joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the women’s branch of the British Army,” and apparently, “King George made sure that his daughter was not given a special rank in the Army. She started as a second subaltern in the ATS and was later promoted to Junior Commander, the equivalent of Captain.”

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