LONDON (Reuters) - Ten thousand guests braved rain to take part in a giant street party in front of Buckingham Palace on Sunday to celebrate the official 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
Hundreds of tables lined the Mall, the grand avenue leading to the palace, for the Patron’s Lunch which saw representatives of the more than 600 charities and other organizations of which Elizabeth is patron enjoying food from wicker picnic hampers.
Organized by her grandson, Peter Phillips, the lunch was the final event in a weekend of celebrations which has included a church service at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral and a traditional Trooping the Colour parade of soldiers in ceremonial uniforms.
Elizabeth turned 90 in April but in keeping with tradition also has an official birthday to ensure celebrations take place in the summer. That did not guarantee good weather, however.
Guests were handed plastic ponchos to protect them from rain which got progressively heavier ahead of the lunch, while others brought along Union Jack emblazoned umbrellas.
“It is June and it’s summer, so it rains,” joked Graham Paterson, a Trustee with the Royal Pinner Educational Trust, who was attending the celebration.
His colleague Jane Crawford added: “Never mind, we’ll make the most of it and are going to have a good lot of fun.”
Guests were provided with hampers with picnic food including sandwiches, salmon mousse, a pork pie with a crown on top and desert, along with the traditional British summer drink, Pimms.
As the rain passed, members of the royal family including Prince William, his wife Kate and brother Harry, emerged from the palace to greet the crowds.
The queen and her husband of 68 years, Prince Philip, were then driven down the Mall in an open top car, waving at the crowds who sang happy birthday to her.
The sun came out in time for a parade featuring more than 300 dancers and 400 musicians in colorful costumes.
The queen thanked the crowds for their support and encouragement and paid tribute to the “commitment, selfless devotion and generosity of spirit” the charities represented.
“I much appreciate the kindness of all your birthday wishes and have been delighted and moved by the many cards and messages I have received,” she added, before suggesting she was ready to move on from the months of birthday celebrations.
“How I will feel if people are still singing happy birthday in December remains to be seen.”
Reporting by Georgina Cooper, writing by Kylie MacLellan, editing by Ros Russell