London: Queen Elizabeth turns 90 on Thursday (today) with beacons and gun salutes heralding the birthday of the world’s oldest monarch.
Her birthday passes with little ceremony but to mark this landmark Queen Elizabeth will greet well-wishers near her Windsor Castle home, and later light a beacon, the first of 1,000 to be lit across the country and worldwide to mark the occasion.
The queen still performs hundreds of engagements a year and shows no signs of losing her appetite for the job. There will also be artillery gun salutes in the British capital at Hyde Park and the Tower of London, while parliament will be illuminated red, white and blue.
“It’s really sinking in now … just how much of a major milestone it is to have the queen celebrating her 90th, and after everything she’s achieved it’s quite a moment for the family,” her grandson Prince William said.
Close aides say Elizabeth, who has been on the throne for 64 years, was far more interested in events to mark her 90th birthday than she had been about overtaking her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria last September as Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
In May, there will be a four-day pageant at Windsor Castle, while in June there will be further events to mark her official birthday, including the Patron’s Lunch, a street party for 10,000 guests on the Mall, the grand avenue leading to Buckingham Palace.
Born on April 21, 1926 in Bruton Street in central London when Calvin Coolidge was U.S. President and Joseph Stalin had just taken control in the Soviet Union, Elizabeth shows no signs of retiring, and two surveys last week suggested the public do not want her to give up either.
A poll found 70 percent wanted her to stay queen compared to 21 percent who thought she should abdicate or retire, while another survey showed 66 percent of Britons had a favourable view of her compared to 10 percent with a negative opinion.
Prime Minister David Cameron is due to lead political tributes in a “humble address” in parliament. “She has served our nation with such dignity, with such ability for so many years. I know the whole country and the whole House (of Commons) will want to join me in saying ‘long may she reign over us’,” Cameron said on Wednesday.
On Friday, the queen will be back to her usual official duties hosting a lunch at Windsor for U.S. President Barack Obama who described her as “a source of strength and inspiration not only for the people of Britain but for millions of people around the world.”