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80th birthday salutes delight the Queen

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Smiling radiantly, the Queen thanked thousands of well-wishers who sent messages for her 80th birthday on Thursday. Despite her wish to keep Friday's milestone birthday a low-key family affair, aides said the monarch had received 20,000 cards and 17,000 e-mails.

One of the more unusual birthday wishes came from the Red Sea, where 500 British sailors had a special greeting for their sovereign. The crew of aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, which she recently visited in Malta, spent three hours posing for a picture spelling out the words "Happy 80th".

Among all the tributes perhaps the most heartfelt came from her son Prince Andrew. Speaking in a television interview, he called her "a great mother" and "an outstanding monarch".

He went on to share his personal memories of a happy childhood, recalling how he would watch Doctor Who - from the behind the sofa - with his parents. And he told how the Queen dusted him off when he suffered childhood mishaps. "I remember coming off my tricycle going round the corner on the gravel," he said. "She used to pick us up like any parent."

The Prince also described playing football and rollerskating through the corridors of Buckingham Palace with his siblings. "Nothing ever seemed to fluster her," he marvelled.

The monarch's second son also revealed how his mother keeps up with the changing times through the young generation of Windsors. "The Queen has got grandchildren who are up to the minute in what's going on out there, so she has the knowledge," he said. "She gets it not only from my children but also from William and Harry."

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The Queen was overwhelmed by the cards and messages she received. "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," she saidPhoto: © EMPICS
Photo: ©
The crew of HMS Illustrious felt so honoured by a recent visit from the Queen they spent three hours on their day off co-ordinating this greetingPhoto: © EMPICS
Photo: ©
On an informal walkabout in the streets around Windsor Castle the sovereign was greeted by flag-waving crowdsPhoto: © Getty Images

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