Giant flag hoisted for queen's 80th birthday

A giant Royal Standard flag over Windsor Castle heralded the 80th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II on Friday, the focus of a week of celebrations in Britain.

Supporters of the monarchy were waiting on the street hours before her scheduled midday walkabout to greet her subjects.

“She has never been involved in a scandal, she has carried out her duties superbly, we love her to bits and hope that she reigns for at least another 20 years,” said Colin Edwards (65), from Ruthin, Wales, who claimed to have been a bystander at 113 royal events since 1982.

“She’s fantastic,” said Mary Wintle (71), who came from Wales to cheer the monarch.

Margaret Thatcher, in a birthday tribute on ITV News on Thursday, said the queen has been an inspiration.

“Her guidance and advice are always most acute and as prime minister I was privileged to benefit from both enormously,” said Thatcher (80), who led the government from 1979 to 1990.

The queen has received more than 20 000 cards and 17 000 e-mails wishing her a happy birthday, Buckingham Palace said.

“I have been very touched by what you have written and would like to express my gratitude to you all for making this day such a special one for me,” the queen said in a message released on Friday.

The birthday has revived speculation about whether the queen would ever contemplate retiring and handing the throne to her heir, Prince Charles. But Countess Mountbatten, a close friend of the queen, said that is unlikely.

“She regards the job as a job for life,” the countess said in an interview with BBC radio.

In Australia, where the queen is still head of state, Prime Minister John Howard said he would present the queen with an album of 15 photographs taken during her visits to the country.

A Royal Standard flag is flown when the queen is in residence in one of the official palaces, including Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, and is put on her vehicles and planes when on the ground during official trips.

The flag put up on Friday is nearly 12m long and nearly 6m wide, and is hoisted sometimes for royal celebrations.

The Royal Standard is made up of four quarterings—two for England, represented by three horizontal lions; one for Scotland, represented by a standing lion; and one for Ireland, in the form of a harp. Wales is not represented on the flag because it has a special position as a principality recognised by the creation of the title of Prince of Wales.—Sapa-AP

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