“Taking into account the journey and activity required to participate in tomorrow’s National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, Her Majesty with great reluctance has concluded that she will not attend.”
Noting the Queen’s well-known love of horseracing, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell said in his sermon that her reign reflected the distance of the Grand National, the famous, gruelling steeplechase, rather than the Epsom Derby sprint.
“But with endurance through times of change and challenge, joy and sorrow, you continue to offer yourself in the service of our country and the Commonwealth,” he said.
“Your majesty, we are sorry that you’re not here with us this morning, but we are so glad that you are still in the saddle. And we are glad that there is still more to come. So thank you for staying the course.”
Cottrell was deputizing for the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who is ill with COVID and pneumonia.
Prince Andrew was also absent from the thanksgiving service after the palace said he had tested positive for COVID. Palace sources said the Duke of York had seen the Queen in the last few days, but not since testing positive.
The 62-year-old is now a non-working royal, after he settled a US lawsuit in February in which he was accused of sexually abusing an under-age girl.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who delivered a reading, was met by a mixture of cheers and boos from the crowd outside the cathedral, reflecting recent public anger over his conduct in office.
After the service, a reception was held at the Guildhall hosted by the lord mayor of the City of London and attended by the royal guests and politicians.
While the Queen could not attend the service and is no longer planning to attend the Epsom Derby. However, she was able to light the flame on Thursday evening at Windsor Castle for the beacon chain, which is made up of more than 3000 beacons across the UK and Commonwealth.
Flames were lit in capital cities across the Commonwealth, from Canberra to Islamabad in Pakistan to Ottawa, Canada in the Queen’s honor. The last beacon was lit on Friday afternoon AEST on Pitcairn Island, where the entire population – 35 permanent residents – turned up for the ceremony.
To mark the occasion the island’s generator, which powers all of Pitcairn and normally turns off at 9.15pm local time, ran an extra hour or so to allow for more festivities.
Congratulations arrived from world leaders, including US President Joe Biden and Pope Francis. French President Emmanuel Macron called Elizabeth “the golden thread that binds our two countries” and former president Barack Obama recalled the Queen’s “grace and generosity” during his first visit to the palace.
“Your life has been a gift, not just to the United Kingdom but to the world,” Obama told the BBC “May the light of your crown continue to reign supreme.”
Even North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un congratulated the Queen, sending his first public message to her on Thursday.
“I extend my congratulations to you and your people on the occasion of the national day of your country, the official birthday of your majesty,” North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said of the note that was sent Thursday from its 38-year-old leader.