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Charlotte's balcony debut caps day of pageantry for Queen's birthday

The nation has wished the Queen happy birthday with thousands turning out to celebrate the monarch's milestone as Princess Charlotte made her first Buckingham Palace balcony appearance.

Three cheers rang out across The Mall for the Queen after she marked her 90th birthday with the traditional pomp and pageantry of the Trooping the Colour ceremony.

Surrounded by some 45 members of her family the monarch smiled and waved from the balcony as she acknowledged the good wishes of the crowds which were larger than in previous years.

Her 13-month-old great-granddaughter Charlotte - sucking on a finger to combat apparent teething - took the event in her stride and acknowledged the traditional flypast of historic and modern aircraft by putting one hand over an ear as she was held by the Duchess of Cambridge.

Wave after wave of military aircraft - from a Spitfire and Hurricane, made famous during the Battle of Britain, to modern fighters like the Typhoon - roared overhead with the Red Arrows trailing red, white and blue smoke to end the display.

The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry stood by the Queen who was the centre of attention in her neon green ensemble.

Her life is being celebrated this weekend as the nation pays tribute to Britain's longest reigning and oldest sovereign with formal ceremonies and carnival street parties.

After yesterday's poignant St Paul's Cathedral service of thanksgiving for the Queen's life, the Trooping the Colour ceremony was all precision displays of formation marching by the immaculately turned out troops.

Thousands of forces' families sat in stands around Horse Guards Parade - Henry VIII's former jousting yard - and watched the Queen inspect the troops from her vintage carriage as the three royal colonels - Charles, Anne and William - wearing their military uniforms followed on horseback.

On parade was the long line of guardsmen who not only take part in major ceremonial occasions like Trooping the Colour but are fighting soldiers. Inevitably, like most years, a few collapsed during the ceremony but were attended to.

The colour of Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards was paraded past the troops, an ancient tradition thought to originate from the practice of marching banners past soldiers so they could identify the flag they were fighting under.

During George II's reign it was ordered in 1748 that the ceremony of Trooping the Colour should mark the official birthday of the sovereign.

The Royal Family watched the ceremony unfold from the Duke of Wellington's old office which overlooks Horse Guards and was directly behind the Queen's dais where she sat with Philip.

The event also featured Britain's Got Talent winner and Household Cavalry bandsman Richard Jones, whose skills as a magician saw him triumph in the popular show.

He played the trombone during the ceremony while on horseback and among the audience of thousands watching the spectacle was Second World War veteran Fergus Anckorn, 97, whose story was the focus of the serviceman's magic trick that earned him the title.

Mr Anckorn, was a prisoner of war and forced to work on the Burma railway and the infamous bridge on the River Kwai. He performed magic tricks for his captors but used their food so he could supplement his meagre diet.

The 97-year-old joked about the Queen's birthday: "I remember her being born, it was common knowledge where I grew up in Kent.''

The former soldier was left impressed by his first experience of a Trooping the Colour ceremony: ''It was absolutely brilliant, I've taken part in some of these big parades and it is an enormous amount of hard work and when they all do it together it's just unbelievable.

''Think of all the rehearsing and the square bashing.''

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