Festivities began with a church service at Windsor's St. George's Chapel. Even the ailing 70-year-old Princess Margaret--in a wheelchair and wearing a sling on her left arm after a series of strokes--joined the queen, the Queen Mother, Prince Charles and others for what was believed to be the largest gathering of British royalty in two years.
"I'm not sure that I recommend being 80. It's not so much the age, but trying to survive these celebrations," Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, told guests at a birthday luncheon. He attributed his longevity to "the accumulation of toasts to my health over the years."
Born Greek, Philip became a naturalized British citizen when he married the then-heir to the throne in 1947. While obligated to remain mostly in Elizabeth's shadow during more than 53 years of marriage, Philip is known as a straight talker prone to off-color remarks.
In 1995, for instance, he asked a Scottish driving instructor: "How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?" This month, he was forced to apologize to Charles after reports that he had described his son as too "precious" and "extravagant" to become king.