Befitting her position and standing, Her Majesty the Queen is not given to extravagant displays of emotion. But the monarch seems to have a permanent smile on her face of late — and it's no small wonder; 2013 has proven to be a particularly joyful year for the royal.
Of course, any moment now she will be blessed with a third great-grandchild when Kate Middleton and Prince William welcome their firstborn. William and Harry enjoy a very special bond with both their grandparents, who, along with their father Prince Charles, supported both boys when they tragically lost their mother in 1997.
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And the Queen has gone on to enjoy a warm relationship with William's wife Kate and has been instrumental in welcoming the Middleton family into the royal fold, personally inviting Carole and Michael to a number of Palace parties and Ascot.
Earlier this month, the monarch also received the happy news that her fourth great-grandchild is on the way, with the announcement that Zara Phillips and her husband Mike Tindall are expecting their first baby.
It's not just the royal baby boom putting a smile on the Queen's face; she will take pride in the fact that all her grandchildren are thriving. Prince Harry has carved out an impressive military career for himself, and continues to work tirelessly to support and highlight a number of charitable causes.
Princess Beatrice is in a longterm and loving relationship with Dave Clarke and works in the city, while her younger sister Eugenie has her sights set on a job in New York working for an auction house, and has found happiness with Jack Brooksbank.
Lady Louise, nine, and James, Viscount Severn, five, meanwhile, continue to blossom under the watchful eyes of their doting parents, the Count and Countess of Wessex.
The future of the monarchy has never looked brighter. With the younger generation of royals proving themselves to be capable ambassadors of the British throne and an absolute credit to the establishment, the Queen must feel assured that her crown is in safe hands.
Then there is her own husband, Prince Phillip. After a serious health scare in June, the Duke of Edinburgh appears to have made a good recovery, and the Queen is understandably delighted to have her beloved husband of 65 years back by her side.
Of course, 2013 has also been a historic year for the monarch, who celebrated the 60th anniversary of her coronation in June.
Following on from last summer's jubilant Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the nation was once again reminded of the achievements of a truly extraordinary woman, who has dedicated her life to her country. A commemorative service in Westminster Abbey was held, attended by the majority of royals, who were keen to demonstrate their deep respect and love for the Queen.
It would have meant a great deal to the monarch to have her loved ones by her side as she marked the momentous occasion, and much like the jubilant Jubilee scenes last year, she was no doubt deeply touched by the warmth and affection shown to her not just by her family, but by the crowds gathered outside.
If there is one image to sum up the royal matriarch's more relaxed approach this year, it's the picture taken immediately after her win at historic Ascot.
With a huge smile on her face, she shed her usual regal restraint and got caught up in the moment, cheering and clapping alongside her racing manager as she celebrated becoming the first reigning monarch to win the prestigious Gold Cup. Never before had the nation seen the monarch in such an unguarded moment, and it only served to further shine a light on the lady behind the iconic figure.
Presently the Queen and her husband will retire to Balmoral to enjoy their annual summer holiday at their Scottish estate. It will be a chance for the monarch to reflect on an extraordinary few months — and perhaps turn her thoughts to the very bright future of the monarchy.
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