The Queen’s dedication and service to the nation has been praised by the Archbishop of Canterbury as her life was celebrated with a service of thanksgiving yesterday.
The Most Rev Justin Welby suggested the Queen had sustained the country “through war and hardship, through turmoil and change” during the St Paul’s Cathedral service to mark her 90th birthday.
And he rejoiced for the way “God’s loving care” had “fearfully and wonderfully” sustained not only the monarch but the Duke of Edinburgh, celebrating his 95th birthday.
Leading figures from national life gathered for the service, which heralded the start of a weekend of celebrations marking the Queen’s milestone.
Prime Minister David Cameron gave a reading from the New Testament in front of the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
The world of politics was represented by former prime ministers Tony Blair and Sir John Major, senior figures from the Cabinet including Chancellor George Osborne and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Governors general from the Queen’s realms were also among those invited, along with faith leaders and hundreds of ordinary people nominated by Government departments to recognise their service.
Archbishop Welby began his sermon by telling the congregation of more than 2,000: “Ninety years ago, Her Majesty The Queen was born, like every human being knit together in her mother’s womb, and today we thank God for the way in which she, like every human being, is fearfully and wonderfully made.
“Before we ever come to light, God marks our journeys. No one at the Queen’s birth knew for what she was destined. Today we recognise that God knew.”
He went on: “We are here today to worship the God who made our Queen, and to celebrate the way in which God’s hand has been so uniquely evident in her life.”
Archbishop Welby read excerpts from Psalm 139 and told the congregation it explored “fear and wonder, and the connection between them”.
He added: “Over the 63 years and the 90 years there has been much to fear: at times of personal challenge or national crisis.
“But just as the Psalmist sees through fear to something more stirring and more extraordinary, so we look back on Your Majesty’s 90 years in the life of our nation with deep wonder and profound gratitude.
“Through war and hardship, through turmoil and change, we have been fearfully and wonderfully sustained.”
Born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York on April 21 1926 - the year of the General Strike - she was never expected to be Queen.
But she has become the longest reigning and oldest monarch in British history - and now the first to reach 90.
Over the decades, Britain has undergone major transformations from technological advances such as computers and supersonic flight to developments in society and the political landscape.
During her 64-year reign the monarch has been served by 12 prime ministers from Sir Winston Churchill to Mr Cameron, while Barack Obama is the 12th US president to hold office over the same period.
Archbishop Welby ended his sermon with the words: “Your Majesty, today we rejoice for the way in which God’s loving care has fearfully and wonderfully sustained you - as well as Prince Philip marking his 95th birthday today.
“And we rejoice, Your Majesty, for the way in which the life God has given you in turn you have given wonderfully in service to this nation.
“You have been an instrument of God’s peace, and through you God has so often turned fear into wonder - and joy.”