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Service marks the Queen's 'unfailing devotion' to nation

By Tony Jones

The Queen's special contribution to the life of the nation during her 90 years has been celebrated with a service of thanksgiving.

Surrounded by her family, leading figures from national life and ordinary people who have made outstanding contributions, Her Majesty was honoured by the Archbishop of Canterbury for sustaining the country "through war and hardship, through turmoil and change".

It was a day of reflection on the monarch's life yesterday, with the Lord Mayor of London, Jeffrey Mountevans, paying tribute to the Queen's qualities of "gentleness, good humour and understanding".

Prince Harry, meanwhile had a personal 90th birthday wish for his grandmother - a day off from her hectic anniversary year.

The service marked the start of this weekend's celebrations, which will encompass the pomp and pageantry of Trooping the Colour today, and the informal carnival atmosphere of the Patron's Lunch street party for 10,000 being held in The Mall tomorrow.

Archbishop Welby gave his sermon before the St Paul's Cathedral congregation of more than 2,000, and told the Queen: "Your Majesty, today we rejoice for the way in which God's loving care has fearfully and wonderfully sustained you - as well as Prince Philip marking his 95th birthday today."

The Queen has been a constant in a changing world and has seen Britain undergo developments affecting all areas of life, from technology and society to the political landscape.

Born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York on April 21 1926 - the year of the General Strike - she was never expected to be Queen, but she has become the longest-reigning and oldest monarch in British history - and now the first to reach 90.

Archbishop Welby read excerpts from Psalm 139 and told the congregation it explored "fear and wonder, and the connection between them". He added: "But just as the Psalmist sees through fear to something more stirring and more extraordinary, so we look back on Your Majesty's 90 years in the life of our nation with deep wonder and profound gratitude.

"Through war and hardship, through turmoil and change, we have been fearfully and wonderfully sustained.''

Among the St Paul's congregation was Prime Minister David Cameron, who gave a reading from the New Testament, the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, Princess Eugenie (left) and other members of the Royal Family.

During the service, Sir David Attenborough read Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond's personal account of growing up to be 90.

It was a birthday gift for the monarch and brought laughter from the congregation. Sir David, who like the children's author turned 90 earlier this year, also recounted one story about Bond's "very polite" but accident-prone father, who always wore a hat, even when swimming in the sea, in case he met someone he knew.

He told the congregation: "He rode a bicycle to work, and one day he managed to get both wheels caught inside a tram line.

"Instead of stopping there and then unravelling himself, he left it until he reached the depot, only to fall and break a collarbone."

William, Kate and Harry later joined 1,800 guests at London's Guildhall for an after-service reception where Lord Mayor of London Jeffrey Mountevans paid tribute to the Queen's "unfailing service".

He said: "It is certainly with gentleness, good humour and understanding that, against the shifting sands of societal change, Her Majesty so wonderfully exemplifies the advantages of a constitutional monarchy."

Grenada High Commissioner Karl Hood said after chatting to Harry: "He said the best birthday present would be to have a day off, so she could lie about and do nothing."

Belfast Telegraph


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