Draught horses Albert and Ivan have been delivering a specially brewed beer to pubs in Windsor for Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee

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Draught horses Albert and Ivan have been delivering a specially brewed beer to pubs in Windsor for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee – Copyright FEDERAL RESERVE/AFP

Pauline FROISSART

Draught horses Albert and Ivan trot down the streets of Windsor, hauling a barrel-laden cart as pubs stock up on beer ahead of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee and a hoped-for influx of visitors.

The two Shire breeds with black coats and feathered hooves stop to unload their cart, which later this month is set to carry Castle Hill, a beer created specially to mark the queen’s 70 years on the throne.

“We call it Castle Hill because when the queen first came to the throne, the ascension was announced on the Castle Hill at Windsor,” explains Will Calvert, director of the Windsor & Eton brewery, which is bathed in the sweet smell of malt and hot water.

Brewed with barley from the royal farm and hops from England and New Zealand — the two extremes of the Commonwealth which the queen heads — Castle Hill is “a very nice refreshing beer for drinking outdoors in the summer for the Jubilee” he says.

Calvert’s brewery has been honoured with the “royal warrant”, meaning they supply the royal household, and will start distributing their one-off Jubilee brew closer to the festivities.

The United Kingdom will mark the reign of its longest-serving monarch from June 2-5, with street parties, concerts and parades.

Britons will get two days off work and pubs will be allowed to stay open longer.

In Windsor, just west of London, a parade, fireworks and a giant picnic within the famed castle’s park are planned. The town centre is bedecked with British Union flags and banners announcing the festivities.

“I think we’re going to be very busy especially if the sun is shining,” said Denisa Hucinova, 35, who manages The Boatman pub on the banks of the River Thames, just below the castle.

“We expect to have lots and lots of tourists and every local person will come here.”

“We’re looking forward to that. This is a great celebration. 70 years — it’s amazing, isn’t it? I’m glad that this day comes and that we can all witness it,” she said, after putting the barrels away and patting the horses.

For the town’s shops and pubs, the four days of festivities should provide plenty of business after the lean years of the pandemic.

“The years of Covid were difficult for our business as they were for anybody in hospitality in the UK and around the world,” said Calvert.

“Occasions like this are good for us, because they give us a chance to trade and showcase our beers and get out to the world.”

– ‘More customers’ –

Tourists have returned to Windsor, but with less money, laments Muthucumara Samy Kesavan, manager of the House of Gifts souvenir shop, perfectly positioned just metres (yards) from the castle.

“Business after the pandemic is slightly picking up, it is not normal yet. It is still very quiet,” he said, hoping the jubilee will bring in a wave of customers.

“The spending is not normal yet but we hope it will improve. Especially in a month or so.”

Inside his shop, the queen’s face is printed on tea towels, cloth bags, T-shirts and tea cups.

Mugs honouring the queen’s grandson Harry, who married Meghan Markle at Windsor in 2018, are on sale at a reduced price, unwanted by customers since he left royal life and moved to the United State.

The queen remains by far the most popular royal, according to opinion polls and souvenir shop sales.

“I like her very much. I love her,” said Kesavan.

“And I saw her a few times, once in Windsor and a couple of times in London”.

The British public still adores the queen, in the twilight of her reign, despite scandals that have engulfed her family, including her son Andrew’s association with deceased paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

“She’s marvellous, she’s built a whole life for the country and the people of the country,” said Sandra Pinder, 61. “She worked so hard, there is nobody like her.”

“All the tours she’s done to promote the country and she does bring a lot for tourism,” said Pinder, accompanying her granddaughter to see the Changing of the Guard at Windsor.

“We love the queen. We all love the queen in the family… She’s 96 years old now. The proof is in the pudding, as we say in England.”

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