Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 90th birthday on Thursday, marking a milestone that drew thousands of well-wishers to the streets near Windsor Castle in honor of Britain’s longest serving monarch.
While the queen usually doesn’t like to make a fuss about her birthday, preferring to spend the day privately, she started it by greeting the crowds in the town, accompanied by her 94-year-old husband Prince Philip. At midday royal gun salutes were fired to mark the occasion.
Later she unveiled a plaque marking a self-guided walking trail near the castle, about 20 miles west of London. In the evening, she will light the first of more than a thousand torches and bonfires that will burn across the country in honor of the monarch who has ruled Britain for 64 years.
British newspapers heralded the day with headlines such as “Happy birthday great granny” and “How the queen saved the royal family.”
Prince William, her grandson and second-in-line to the throne, said last week in a speech in India that the queen is an energetic and guiding force for the family.
“She may be my grandmother, but she is also very much the boss,” Prince William said.
While Thursday marks her actual birthday, lavish celebrations commemorating the occasion won’t take place until June 10-12, when her birthday is officially celebrated.
In June, she and other members of the royal family will attend a birthday procession on Horse Guards Parade, the open square at the foot of St. James’s Park. The next day, she will attend a party on the Mall with 10,000 guests, and pubs across the country will stay open late over the weekend to celebrate the occasion.