LONDON (AP) - Pealing church bells, artillery salutes and crowds cheering “God save the queen!” greeted Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday, the last of four days of Diamond Jubilee celebrations honoring her 60 years on the throne.
Poignantly, the queen was without Prince Philip, her husband of 64 years, who was hospitalized on Monday for treatment of a bladder infection.
At a morning service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, praised the queen for bringing happiness to the nation. His thoughts were seconded by jubilant crowds that cheered royals major and minor as they made their way to and from the church.
“We are marking six decades of living proof that public service is possible and that it is a place where happiness can be found,” Williams told the royals and dignitaries filling the vast landmark church designed by Christopher Wren in the 17th century.
The queen returned to Buckingham Palace in the afternoon, braving the first few drops of rain in an open carriage, later to appear on the palace balcony with the present and future of the monarchy: her heir, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla, Prince William, the second-in-line, and his wife, Kate, and William’s brother, Prince Harry.
There were more cheers as a noisy Lancaster bomber, four Spitfire fighters and a Hurricane fighter _ all recalling the nation’s battle for survival in World War II _ emerged from the leaden skies to fly over the palace. They were followed by nine jets spewing red, white and blue smoke.
The crowds, forming a sea of bobbing umbrellas, stretched all the way down the Mall, the wide road leading to Buckingham Palace. As the Irish Guards doffed their bearskin hats to lead three cheers for the queen, the 86-year-old monarch beamed.
In a rare televised statement, the queen said the jubilee celebrations had been “a humbling experience.”
“I will continue to treasure and draw inspiration from the countless kindnesses shown to me in this country and throughout the Commonwealth,” the monarch said in the two-minute broadcast, shown in Britain and the 54-nation Commonwealth of its former colonies.
The Jubilee affirmed the nation’s unmatched skills for staging impressive ceremonies, evoking the power and swagger of its vanished empire. The celebrations demonstrated as well the misery which some Britons will endure _ even sleeping outside in a cold rain _ in pursuit of a good time.
Philip’s absence caused some hasty rearrangement of preparations but seemed not to dampen the high spirits. Prince Edward, who made a brief visit to the hospital, reported that his father was getting better and had been watching the celebrations on TV.
Asked about the queen, Edward said “she’s bearing up but she’s missing him, obviously.”
Williams paid tribute to the queen for her service to the nation and Commonwealth. It was not a role she chose, but one thrust upon her when her uncle David, King Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936. The queen’s father became king and Elizabeth, the elder daughter, was destined to reign.
Within the constraints of a constitutional monarchy, the queen’s life has been one of ceremonial duty, world travel and the pleasures of great wealth. She has also been the mother of a family that has produced turbulent marriages and traumatic divorces.
“Dedication to the service of a community certainly involves that biblical sense of an absolute purge of selfish goals, but it is also the opening of a door into shared riches,” Williams said.