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Queen Mother marks 100th birthday

HDN | 8/5/2000 12:00:00 AM |

Admirers line the approaches to Buckingham Palace to wish a happy birthday to one of the most popular royals of the century London - Reuters Britain's Queen Mother became the royal family's first centenarian on Friday and took the nation's 100th birthday salute from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. A huge crowd -- police estimated the figure topped 40,000 -- surged towards the palace gates to hail the House of Windsor's perennially popular matriarch. The indomitable "Queen Mum," who has

  • Admirers line the approaches to Buckingham Palace to wish a happy birthday to one of the most popular royals of the century
  • London - Reuters

    Britain's Queen Mother became the royal family's first centenarian on Friday and took the nation's 100th birthday salute from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

    A huge crowd -- police estimated the figure topped 40,000 -- surged towards the palace gates to hail the House of Windsor's perennially popular matriarch.

    The indomitable "Queen Mum," who has had to steady the crisis-prone monarchy through abdication, war and scandal, was greeted with a roar of delight as she stepped out onto the balcony with her two daughters, reigning monarch Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret.

    She was then joined by her grandchildren and great grandchildren as flag-waving crowds broke into a spontaneous chorus of "Happy Birthday."

    It echoed the emotional day in 1945 when she and her late husband, King George VI, stepped out onto the same balcony before massive crowds to mark the end of World War II in Europe.

    The day of national celebration began when the Queen Mother, born when Queen Victoria was still on the throne, took the salute from a troop of mounted soldiers outside her Clarence House residence.

    On a sunny summer's day, a military band broke into a chorus of "Happy Birthday" as she ignored the offer of a chair and leant on two walking sticks.

    Postman Tony Nichols, 58, then hand-delivered a special birthday card from her daughter Queen Elizabeth, which an equerry opened with a sword. It was signed "Lilibet" -- the queen's childhood nickname.

    Cheers greet Queen Mum

    The Queen Mother, wearing a powder blue coat and matching hat, then drove to Buckingham Palace with her grandson and heir to the throne, Prince Charles, in am open-topped landau pulled by four white horses and bedecked with flowers in her blue and yellow racing colors.

    As she swept onto London's Mall -- the broad avenue that leads to Buckingham Palace -- crowds packed 20 deep cheered and waved Union Jack flags in an exuberant celebration of Britain's favorite grandmother.

    She smiled broadly and turned from side to side in the carriage to give a regal wave. A 41-gun salute boomed out across the capital as she entered through the palace gates.

    Political and personal tributes poured in from Canada to New Zealand.

    "What marks her out is this extraordinary sense of duty," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said. "We are honoring somebody who has been a great example to us all of service."

    Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a fervent royalist, said: "To reach the age of 100 years is an extraordinary achievement. I salute her on a wonderful life."

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, born in the year the Queen Mother became a widow, said her wartime role in rallying opposition to Adolf Hitler had inspired many of his compatriots.

    And now one of the world's most enduring royal figureheads has her sights set on 2002 when her daughter will have been on the throne for half a century.

    For she is determined to join in the Golden Jubilee celebrations, viewed by Buckingham Palace as the next major milestone for the royals in their bid to maintain the affection of their increasingly republican subjects.

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