It’s no secret that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was a passionate horsewoman. She was recognised by the FEI with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her dedication to the horse, was ranked among the top breeders in the UK (she owned a modest string of racehorses) and we’ve all seen the photos of her out for a hack on a gorgeously hairy Fell pony. But perhaps one of her most recognisable horses was a striking black mare named Burmese.
Bred in Canada to be part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Burmese became a fast favourite among the recruits and by the age of five she was the lead horse for the RCMP’s famous Musical Ride. When the RCMP was preparing to perform at the 1969 Royal Windsor Horse Show in England, they learned that Queen Elizabeth had her eyes peeled for a new horse, and so they offered their beautiful mare to the Queen, who graciously accepted.
Burmese and Queen Elizabeth quickly developed a strong bond. It is reported that the Queen rode her daily while staying at her country houses. The Queen also rode Burmese in countless ceremonial displays. Just think of the wondrous and inspiring sight that would have been, globetrotters – Her Majesty the Queen of England aside her tall, striking black horse, both dressed in full regalia!
There is one well-known incident that should be mentioned, however. On the 13th of June, 1981 at the annual Trooping of the Colour, Burmese’s courage and the Queen’s horsemanship was tested like never before. Astride Burmese, the Queen was leading the parade through the streets of London when gunshots rang out – a teenager had fired six blank shots at the monarch! Burmese took fright (as would any horse!) but Queen Elizabeth, riding side saddle might I add, quickly steadied her and regained control, carrying on in the parade. Despite this close call, the Queen continued to ride Burmese for ceremonial occasions, appearing in 18 straight Trooping of the Colour parades before the mare was retired in 1986. Burmese spent the remainder of her days frolicking in the green pastures of Windsor Castle before passing away at the age of 28.
So beloved was Burmese that she was given the unusual honour of being buried on the grounds of Windsor, and the Queen also commissioned a bronze statue of herself aside Burmese to commemorate her beloved black mare. Today this statue can be found in front of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building in Regina, Canada, the province where Burmese was born.
A fitting tribute to a wonderful horse, don’t you think, globetrotters?
Image credits: top image & preview image by Leonard Bentley via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0); middle image from the White House Photographic Collection via Wikimedia Commons (public domain); bottom image by daryl_mitchell via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) (brightness, colours & contrast enhanced from original).