London: The Queen has marked her 95th birthday with a rare personal statement thanking the public for supporting her “during a period of great sadness”.
In her first remarks since the April 9 death of Prince Philip and his funeral last Saturday, the grieving monarch said she had been “deeply touched” by the response.
“I have, on the occasion of my 95th birthday today, received many messages of good wishes, which I very much appreciate,” she said.
“While as a family we are in a period of great sadness, it has been a comfort to us all to see and to hear the tributes paid to my husband, from those within the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and around the world.
“My family and I would like to thank you all for the support and kindness shown to us in recent days. We have been deeply touched, and continue to be reminded that Philip had such an extraordinary impact on countless people throughout his life.”
Images of the widowed monarch sitting alone at the Windsor Castle funeral to comply with coronavirus restrictions prompted an outpouring of public sympathy.
A maximum of 30 people can attend funerals in England and they must sit at least two metres apart from others. The government is under pressure to relax the rules, given infections, hospitalisations and deaths from COVID-19 have plummeted over recent weeks.
Philip, the longest-serving consort in British history, died at Windsor Castle just two months short of his 100th birthday.
He and the Queen had been married for 73 years.
The couple first met as children at a wedding in 1934; he was 13 and she just eight. They would meet again at the Royal Naval College in Devon in 1939 and wrote to each other regularly afterwards. They announced their engagement in July 1947 and married that same year.
The Queen’s controversial son Prince Andrew last week said his mother had described the final moments of her marriage as “a miracle” and told family the Duke of Edinburgh’s death had left a huge void in her life.
“She described it as having left a huge void in her life, but we, the family, the ones that are close, are rallying around to make sure that we’re there to support her,” he told reporters.
The Queen will observe a formal period of mourning until Friday. There were no gun salutes at Hyde Park or the Tower of London to mark the monarch’s birthday, and no new official portrait or photograph.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent birthday wishes via Twitter.
“I have always had the highest admiration for Her Majesty and her service to this country and the Commonwealth,” he said. “I am proud to serve as her Prime Minister.”