LONDON - Queen Elizabeth II and her family marked her official 90th birthday Saturday with a parade, a colorful military ceremony and an appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony.
It was a day for continuity, patriotism and pride. Flag-waving throngs crowded into the spacious Mall in front of the palace to honour the longest reigning monarch in British history.
Prince William and his wife Kate's daughter, Princess Charlotte, age 1, delighted the crowd by making her first appearance on the balcony, standing alongside the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, who turned 95 on Friday.
The queen, wearing a lime green outfit visible from the far points of the crowded Mall, travelled by horse-drawn carriage, sometimes waving to the throng.
"She looked lovely," said Joanne Forster, who along with her husband had scheduled a week's visit from Northamptonshire so she could come to the birthday parade.
"She's our queen and she makes us very proud. We love her. She's done her job, 100 per cent, for the Commonwealth, for the British people. She just goes on and on and on. I don't think she'll ever retire."
The goodwill and excitement were palpable as the queen's carriage approached the palace, her imminent arrival announced by a military band on horseback. The parade route in the heart of ceremonial London was lined with people as far as the eye could see.
Prince Charles, heir to the throne, and his son Prince William rode down the Mall on horseback along with Princess Anne, the queen's daughter, a skilled equestrian.
The splendid Trooping the Color parade, which featured more than 1,500 soldiers and officers, also included a fly-by of historic World War II aircraft and modern fighter planes.
The rip-roaring aerial display was a main draw for William Ross, an Army veteran. But he wanted to pay his respects to the queen as well.
"I was a soldier for the queen for 22 years," said Ross, 71. "I think she's done a very good job. She's had lots of trial and tribulations. She's like a battleship. She just sails on."
The crowd cheered as the queen emerged on the balcony, scene of many national celebrations in the past. William and his wife Kate were joined by Charlotte — in Kate's arms — and toddler Prince George, nearly 3, who stood on his own.
"I love everything about England," said Alicia Farrugia, who was waving a large "God Save the Queen" banner above her head.
"I love the history, the rule of law. My grandfather used to bring me here as a child, starting when I was 3-years old. I followed it through with my own children. Today I've come on my own. I just feel I have to be here. It's history in the making. It's so good for the country. It's something deep in my heart."
The birthday festivities continue Sunday with a gigantic luncheon in front of the palace. The palace has invited roughly 10,000 people who work at charities supported by the queen to the open air festivities.
Street parties will also be held in many towns and cities throughout Britain and in other Commonwealth countries.
The queen's real birthday is in April. The official birthday is timed in hope of fair weather — a custom that began in the 18th century.