The Queen honoured stalwart pensioners during the ancient Royal Maundy Service today as she celebrated her 85th birthday.
In Westminster Abbey, where in eight days time Prince William will wed fiancee Kate Middleton, the Queen presented the elderly with a token of gratitude - Maundy money. The practice of distributing ''alms'' to the needy or worthy on the Thursday of Holy Week dates back centuries and is an important annual event in the Queen's calendar,
The queen has two birthdays: her actual birthday, and her official birthday in June, when the fickle English weather is deemed more favourable for outdoor festivities.
At midday the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery provided a 41-gun salute in London's Hyde Park, while the Honourable Artillery Company was to fire a 62-gun tribute from Gun Wharf at the Tower of London an hour later,