The Queen has been honoured with a standing ovation as her Platinum Jubilee celebrations began with a star-studded equestrian extravaganza featuring some of the world’s leading performers.

Hollywood actors Tom Cruise and Dame Helen Mirren, once again playing a queen of England, led the cast of entertainers who appeared in the first major event marking the Queen’s 70-year reign.

The audience rose to their feet applauding and cheering when the monarch arrived at the arena close to Windsor Castle for the musical and theatrical romp across the centuries called A Gallop Through History.

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The event was staged by the Royal Windsor Horse Show, which has been welcoming spectators for the past three days including the monarch, who spent part of her Friday touring the show grounds after earlier missing the opening of parliament.

Despite ongoing mobility issues, the Queen walked to her seat in the royal box after she was driven into the Castle Arena escorted by mounted divisions of the Household Cavalry.

She was joined by the Earl and Countess of Wessex for the show that reflected her lifelong passion for horses.

Among the celebrities taking part in the show were Damian Lewis, Omid Djalili and Katherine Jenkins, a cast of British and international talent for Sunday’s performance.

The Queen sat in the royal box with a blanket over her knees and a shawl around her shoulders as Djalili, the show’s herald and narrator, took the audience through key moments of history.

Cruise told broadcaster ITV the Queen “is a woman I greatly admire”.

“What she has accomplished is historic. She has met presidents, world leaders, people from all walks of life,” the Top Gun and Mission: Impossible star said.

“Not just Americans, but the world knows the dignity, devotion and kindness, that is what I have always felt about her.

“Someone that understands her position and has held it through a history that’s just been extraordinary the past 70 years.”

Mirren, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of the Queen in the film of the same name, played Queen Elizabeth I as the show began by chronicling the events of the first Elizabethan age, from the attempted invasion of the Spanish Armada to leading figures of the day such as William Shakespeare.

Mirren paid tribute to the monarch for her “unswerving” leadership and said she spoke on behalf of ” a grateful nation and Commonwealth” in expressing thanks.

“For all these years you have carried our nation. You have been at its heart, its drumbeat. You have given us purpose and when situations have been challenging, your hope, guidance and leadership have been unswerving,” Mirren said.

Highlights included the Royal Cavalry of Oman who filled the arena with their display of horsemanship, and the precision marching and rifle-handling skills of the King’s Guard of Norway.

Cruise introduced “one of the most enthralling, thrilling, heart-in-mouth displays” as he announced a performance by The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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