German president wishes Queen happy birthday
21 April 2006, LONDON - German President Horst Koehler and Italy's head of state, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, are among the foreign leaders wishing Britain's Queen Elizabeth II a happy 80th birthday Friday.
21 April 2006
LONDON - German President Horst Koehler and Italy's head of state, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, are among the foreign leaders wishing Britain's Queen Elizabeth II a happy 80th birthday Friday.
Tens of thousands of Britons, in typical good humour and high spirits, turned out to mark the Queen's birthday with their own renditions of "Happy Birthday."
Up to 15,000 made the trip to Windsor, the small "royal town" near London, to catch a glimpse of their long-reigning monarch on a lunchtime walkabout.
Up and down the country, Britons were glued to their TV sets to watch the "informal" birthday celebrations, which were nonetheless marked by a good deal of pomp and circumstance, fireworks and gun salutes.
Newspapers hailed the milestone birthday with headlines such as "Britain salutes Elizabeth the Great" and "Happy Birthday, Her Majesty."
But the liberal, anti-royal Independent newspaper placed a picture of the embattled King of Nepal on its front page, who announced Friday that he would hand over "power to the people."
For the queen, emerging to the tunes of "Happy Birthday" from the thick walls of Windsor Castle in a striking fuchsia-pink coat and matching straw hat, her greatest birthday wish was answered.
"A nice sunshine day - that would be nice", she had told a BBC reporter in answer to what her greatest birthday wish would be.
Despite that Prince Philip took no chances, wearing a raincoat as he accompanied the queen on the 45-minute walkabout.
The queen, looking fit and smiling, accepted gifts of flower posies, teddy bears, chocolates, birthday cakes and inflatable corgies from bystanders, many of them local school children who had donned cardboard crowns for the occasion.
"She looked really pretty," one of the youngsters related after shaking hands with the queen.
Despite her advanced age, the queen, now a member of the country's 330,000 octogenarians, appeared sprightly and relaxed.
She seemed a good deal happier than she had been in previous years when the royal family was dogged by scandal and threatened by a decline in popular support.
The queen was spending the day at Windsor Castle, her favourite residence near London, before attending a family dinner hosted by Prince Charles, heir to the throne.
The Royal Standard, the queen's personal flag, was raised over the castle Friday to mark the occasion.
Windsor castle, built by William the Conqueror as a fortress in the 1070s, is the oldest and largest castle in the world and has been inhabited over a period of nearly 1,000 years.
Buckingham Palace said the queen received 20,000 cards and 17,000 e-mails for her birthday and had been "very touched" by the messages they contained.
"I would like to thank the many thousands of people from this country and overseas who have sent me cards and messages on my 80th birthday," a statement said.
The queen was "determined" to answer all messages in person, and extra staff had been hired to achieve the task, palace sources said.
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who is also 80, was among the first to offer her congratulations to the queen Friday.
The two women, both with a reputation of being headstrong, did not always see eye to eye during Thatcher's premiership from 1979 to 1990.
Thatcher, in a televised tribute, praised the queen as an "inspiration and an example to the nation."
"Long may she rule", Thatcher said in her tribute, which was, unusually, broadcast by the ITV television channel.
Messages of congratulation were received from around the world, including from German President Horst Koehler and Italy's head of state, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
All members of Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet made a contribution towards a gift for the queen - a china tea set from Spode's, the country's oldest pottery manufacturer.
"It was something the queen had indicated she specifically would like", a spokesman for Blair said.
At a dinner at Kew Palace later, the queen and her guests will be treated to fireworks and the strains of the Water Music by Georg Friedrich Haendel, the German-born composer who became a naturalized Briton and favourite court composer.
Haendel wrote the Water Music for King George I and first performed it for him during a river party on the Thames in 1717.
Later Friday, Prince Charles is to broadcast a personal tribute to his mother on television.
The queen's "official birthday" will be celebrated with the Trooping the Colour parade in London in June, in accordance with royal tradition and in the expectation of better weather.
DPA with Expatica
Subject: German news