The proud monarch is surrounded by her two youngest grandchildren and her five great-children at Windsor Castle in the first of a series of official snaps released to celebrate Elizabeth’s big day.
The Queen is seen for the first time cuddling the youngest of her family, 11-month-old Princess Charlotte, in the picture which was taken just after Easter in the Green Drawing Room.
Cheeky little Mia Tindall can be seen proudly holding up her great-granny’s £1000 Launer handbag in a moment, says one who was there, that was totally unscripted.
“The moment with Mia was completely spontaneous, it was not staged at all. She just picked up her great-granny’s handbag and that was it.”
It was, they revealed, a “happy, chaotic, warm afternoon” with the parents of the children all present and trying to catch their offspring’s eye.
“Taking pictures of children is like herding cats but for that split second, it just worked. Annie [Leibovitz ] has children of her own and knows her stuff.”
The group portrait is one of three released today, the other two being of the Queen and her beloved dogs, and a rare and surprisingly warm shot of the Queen with her daughter Princess Anne.
“There was a very definite idea behind the set,” says a royal aide.
“The Queen wanted a portrait of the youngest members of the family, the other end of the generational spectrum. You have the two youngest grandchildren, who are quite a lot younger than the others, and the great-grandchildren.
“It was a happy, nice, relaxed afternoon. There was a lovely feeling to it. All the parents were helping to get the shot right – a classic composition, rather like an Old Master but with a modern twist.”
The palace also released a shot this week of the Queen and her three future heirs to the throne taken in 2015 to be used on a commemorative 90th birthday stamp.
The elegant pic was taken in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace and was photographed by Ranald Mackechnie. George is seen in his signature knee socks, this time in blue to match his shorts, a white button-up shirt and black shoes.
Meanwhile, the Queen’s busy birthday schedule has kicked off with her first official engagement, a visit to the Royal Mail office near Windsor Castle.
The stop-off marked the 500th anniversary of the postal service and she was welcomed with singing from the Royal Mail choir.
The royals then headed to Alexandra Gardens in the town for a ceremony to officially open a new bandstand and met pupils from the six schools involved in its decoration. The children also sang Happy Birthday.