The Queen receives her first birthday cake at annual tea meeting with local WI ladies

by Emily Nash

The Queen was presented with her first birthday cake on Thursday - three months before she turns 90. The sovereign cut the iced fruit cake and enjoyed a Champagne toast at a meeting of the Sandringham and West Newton Women's Institute, near her Norfolk home.

Yvonne Browne, branch Vice President, said: "We were first off the mark this year! It went absolutely brilliantly, it was a very relaxed meeting, the Queen enjoyed it.

"We did the usual thing such as the reading of the minutes and she presented the competition prizes."

CLICK TO VIEW FULL GALLERY

TheQueen-

The Queen attended her local WI meeting on Thursday afternoon

She spent about 90 minutes in the village hall where she chatted to fellow members and presented prizes to the winners of competitions including one for best ginger cake.

Members listened to a talk by Channel 5 newsreader Sian Williams about her life in journalism and the Queen also gave her own short address, where she referred to Princess Charlotte as "a new addition" to her family last year.

As she left, she was presented with birthday gifts including a plaque to accompany a Sweet Chestnut tree - Castanea Sativa - that she has been given to plant in the grounds of Sandringham House, a basket of Spring flowers, a jar of marmalade and the cake.

TheQueen1-

The Monarch has been a member of the branch since 1953

Yvonne said: "We had a little bit of a joke because when she went to the Albert Hall in London last year she had difficulty cutting the cake. I said to her 'I hope you can cut this, Ma'am'. And the knife went in easily so that was good!"

She said the Queen joined in with the traditional WI rendition of the hymn Jerusalem after the national anthem, adding: "She's very much a member. She seemed very happy."

Jackie Cartledge, 59, who sat at a table for tea with the Queen, said: "She was very good and very happy. She likes coming and we talk about all sorts of things things like family and gardening.

"She makes you feel very much at ease - she always does. She knows us all so that makes it even more special. She will be back next year. Definitely."

TheQueen2-

The Queen celebrated the 100th anniversary of the WI in June

The Queen has attended the WI group's meetings since 1943 and took over as President from the Queen Mother, who in turn took over from Queen Mary. Speaking afterwards TV presenter Sian, 51, said: "They all enjoyed themselves tremendously. Because it was a very private gathering it had that informality about it and although the Queen is going to be experiencing a lot of celebrations in her 90th year, but this felt like a time where she could just enjoy a slice of cake and have a cup of tea amongst old friends."

The Sandringham and West Newton group's chairman Yvonne Brown, who has been a member for 25 years, has said the monarch "becomes one of us" at the gatherings and enjoys chatting over a cup of Yorkshire Blend tea.

She said last year: "We use the same china as usual that we’ve got in the cupboard. The only extra thing we do is that we usually have tea and biscuits, but when the Queen comes we have nice cakes and tablecloths and flowers.

Newsreader Sian Williams was the guest speaker at the meeting

"We don't have fancy tea, it's just any old tea bag that we have in the cupboard but we always make sure she has ginger bread with it because we think that is her favourite.

"She just becomes one of us and I think she really enjoys it."

The Women's Institute celebrated its 100th anniversary last year and the Queen prompted laughter from daughter Princess Anne and daughter-in-law the Countess of Wessex as she struggled to cut a celebratory cake at its AGM in London in June.

Addressing the meeting, she praised the organisation for "gathering women together, encouraging them to acquire new skills and nurturing unique talents."

She said it "can make a real difference to the lives of women of all ages and cultural backgrounds, in a spirit of friendship, cooperation and support."

Anne, Sophie and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall are all members, but although she has expressed an interest, the Duchess of Cambridge is not yet thought to have signed up.

But Kate did reply to a letter from her local branch at Anmer last year, expressing an interest in the group. If she does join, she will be following a royal tradition started by Queen Mary when she asked for a group to be formed at the end of World War One.

Made famous by the hit movie Calendar Girls, the WI was created in 1915 to encourage women to grow and preserve food. It has since become an important social platform to allow women to make friends and share traditional crafts and other hobbies.