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Queen Elizabeth II marks her 85th birthday -- unofficially

April 21, 2011 |  8:55 pm

Queen Elizabeth II marks her 85th birthdayThis post has been corrected. See the note below for details.

Queen Elizabeth II marked her 85th birthday on Thursday, attending a Maundy service at London's Westminster Abbey with husband Prince Philip and gracing 85 men and 85 women with gift coin purses -- two per person --- each containing commemoratives with a total face value of 85 pence.

The red purses contained 5-pound ($8) coins commemorating the 90th birthday of Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and 50-pence coins (100 pence in a pound) marking the 2012 Olympic Games held in London. The white ones held 85 pence worth of specially minted Maundy Money in one-, two-, three- and four-pence denominations.

A 41-gun salute in Hyde Park on Queen Elizabeth II's 85th birthday The Easter week event also served as a bit of a rehearsal in advance of the April 29 wedding of Kate Middleton to the queen's grandson Prince William at the Abbey.

Elizabeth, having held the crown for 59 years, is now the oldest person to have ruled the commonwealth. Prince Charles, 62, is the heir apparent who's spent the most time in the royal on-deck circle.

Now, while Elizabeth was indeed born on April 21, 1926, and the Maundy ceremony is an official one with a couple of royal multiple-gun salutes, this year's coincidence didn't turn Thursday into the monarch's official birthday celebration, the Washington Post noted. Since the days of Edward VII, Britain has held that party in June.

Hey, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln weren't actually both born on the third Monday of February, you know.

[For the record, 9:52 p.m. April 21 and 7:30 a.m. April 22: This post originally misspelled Edinburgh as Edinborough. It also referred to William, 28, as the queen's eldest grandson; though William is Charles' first son, Peter Philips, 33, is the oldest grandchild, as noted in our who's who guide to the royal family.  Thanks to commenters @marie, @nick mercury and @Max for the catches.]


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-- Christie D'Zurilla

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Photos: Queen Elizabeth II, top left, leaves Westminster Abbey in central London following the Royal Maundy Service on her 85th birthday. Members of the King's Troop Royal Artillery, right, perform a 41-gun salute in Hyde Park on April 21, 2011. Credits: Leon Neal / AFP / Getty Images, left; Ben Stansall / AFP / Getty Images, right.