The new portrait, the final one released from a set shot in March by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, was held back until now because the shoot was meant to create a series of pictures. “It was simply nice to have this one for the birthday weekend,” a palace source tells PEOPLE.
“There was a lovely, relaxed family atmosphere that day.”
Taken at the private apartments at Windsor Castle (against a gray screen) on the Monday after Easter, cropped in tightly – unusual for a royal portrait – the picture underscores the couple’s closeness, something that those meeting with them during a Tuesday outing in Wales observed firsthand.
“She was very sweet,” student Gemma Williams told PEOPLE. “They were really relaxed and friendly and happy. They seemed to enjoy themselves.”
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That matches the 90-year-old monarch‘s current mood. “She’s a lot more smiley,” Robert Hardman, who wrote the recent documentary Our Queen at 90, told PEOPLE. “It’s no doubt partly because the whole family and the institution is strong and contented, but a lot of it is down to him.”
The couple has a firm partnership, which seems to work for both family and nation, biographer Gyles Brandreth wrote earlier this week in the Radio Times. “The Queen wears the crown, but her husband wears the trousers. He is the power behind the throne: steadfast, never-failingly supportive.”
This weekend, the couple will be the center of attention at a series of events. A special service takes place on Friday, attended by all senior members of the family, including Prince William and Princess Kate, and then the birthday parade, called Trooping the Colour, is on Saturday. Then follows the Patron’s Lunch, which sees 10,000 people dine out on the magnificent Mall stretching east from the palace.
The Queen, whose real birthday is on April 21, traditionally has an official day of celebration in June as well.