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The Queen's 90th birthday: National service of thanksgiving

Queen Elizabeth is celebrating her official 90th birthday with a three-day series of festivities beginning Friday morning.

Service at St. Paul's Cathedral Friday also marks Prince Philip's 95th birthday

Queen Elizabeth arrives for a service of thanksgiving for her 90th birthday at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

It's Queen Elizabeth II's birthday — still.

If it seems like the Queen celebrated her 90th birthday just a few months ago, that's because she did. On April 21, to be exact, when much of the nation came together to praise her long and constant reign.

But in the arcane ways of the British monarchy, that doesn't stop her from marking the event again with three days of festivities that started Friday with pomp, pageantry and prayer at St. Paul's Cathedral.

The British sovereign has two birthdays each year: One on the actual date of their birth and the other one in early June, when London's royal parks usually bask in sunshine.

Friday's celebrations hosted by CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge 2:26:59

The service Friday — which coincided with a 41-gun salute to honour the Queen's husband, Prince Philip, on his actual 95th birthday — included other 90-year-old speakers. Among them were naturalist David Attenborough, who read from the works of 90-year-old Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond, and Hilda Price, a woman born on the same day as the Queen.

"Ninety years ago, her Majesty the Queen was born — like every human being, knit together in her mother's womb," the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, told the crowd, borrowing a phrase from the Bible. 

"And today, we thank God for the ways in which she, like every human being, is fearfully and wonderfully made." 

The monarch, dressed in a primrose yellow coat-dress and matching hat, turned to smile at a crowd of well-wishers singing Happy Birthday as she climbed the cathedral steps.

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Prince William and his wife Kate, Prince Harry and dozens of other royals joined politicians and the wider community in a thundering rendition of God Save the Queen.

A supporter waits for the arrival of members of the Royal Family to a service of thanksgiving for Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday at St. Paul's Cathedral. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

The festive Trooping the Colour parade will be held Saturday, the Queen's official birthday. The event is expected to draw throngs of Britons and visitors to Buckingham Palace for a possible balcony appearance by the senior royals.

On Sunday, the Mall in front of the palace will host lunch for roughly 10,000 charity workers, patrons and members of the royal family.

Street parties are planned in many locations, including some in Commonwealth countries and also in the United States.

British newspapers have been filled with paeans to the Queen, and editorials urging the public to show its gratitude for her long reign.

After the three-day extravaganza, the Queen is expected to turn her attention to the horse racing season and her lengthy summer holiday in Scotland.

Canadians from Alberta and Ontario take part in the Queen's birthday celebrations near St. Paul's Cathedral in London on Friday. Bernadette Christie, left, travelled from Alberta while Maria and Jessica Pillar came from Ontario. (Ellen Mauro/CBC)

With files from CBC News

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