By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) – Veteran Scottish rocker Rod Stewart received a knighthood in Queen Elizabeth’s birthday honours list on Friday as a weekend of events was launched to mark the official 90th birthday of Britain’s oldest and longest-reigning monarch.
Known for hits such as “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and “Maggie May”, Stewart was among more than 1,000 people to receive awards in the annual list which recognises Britons from famous celebrities to community charity workers.
The queen herself was honoured earlier on Friday at a National Service of Thanksgiving at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, attended by dignitaries including Prime Minister David Cameron and all the senior royals.
In a ceremony laden with the pageantry that accompanies significant royal events, the monarch was greeted by a trumpet fanfare while the entrance to the cathedral was flanked by her Bodyguard of the Yeoman of the Guard, veteran soldiers dressed in scarlet uniforms.
It was a double celebration for the royals, with the occasion falling on the same day as the 95th birthday of Prince Philip, the queen’s husband of 68 years.
“Your Majesty, today we rejoice for the way in which God’s loving care has fearfully and wonderfully sustained you, as well as Prince Philip marking his 95th birthday today,” Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion said in his sermon.
He said the country looked back at her decades of service to the nation, through war, hardship, turmoil and change, with deep wonder and gratitude.
The queen, who has been on the throne for 64 years, turned 90 in April but in keeping with a tradition dating back to 1748, she also has an official birthday, usually in June, to ensure celebrations take place when the weather is likely to be better.
It is when a list of honours is issued, with this year’s recipients including 99-year-old singer Vera Lynn, who entertained British troops during World War Two, and Tim Peake, the first British astronaut to visit the International Space Station.
Other well-known figures to be honoured were England cricket captain Alastair Cook, former England football player Alan Shearer and Jamie Murray, who topped the tennis doubles rankings this year – the first British man to be a world number one since computerized rankings were introduced in the 1970s.
On Saturday, Elizabeth will attend the traditional Trooping the Colour parade of soldiers in ceremonial uniforms in central London followed by a fly-past of Royal Air Force aircraft over Buckingham Palace.
To conclude celebrations, the queen hosts “The Patrons Lunch” for 10,000 guests at the largest street party ever to be held on the Mall, the grand avenue that leads to Buckingham Palace, an event organised by her grandson, Peter Phillips.
The guests will come from some of the more than 600 charities and other organisations of which she is patron with the festivities beamed to large screens in the capital’s parks.
The government has said millions of Britons are expected to join the occasion at local street parties across the country.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Stephen Addison)
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