Wednesday, August 4, 1999 Published at 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Bouquets and devotion for Queen Mother
Party atmosphere outside Clarence House
By News Online's Liz Doig
The sun, according to the officers of the Royal Parks Constabulary, has never let the Queen Mother down on her birthday.
"I've been on duty for more of her birthdays than I care to remember," said RPC liaison officer Sue Vine outside Clarence House on Wednesday morning.
"And the weather has always been good - it just goes to show that God does shine on the righteous."
Heading the queue - which by 8am on 4 August boasted an orderly thousand members or so - was care nurse Jennifer Hawkins.
The 50-year-old had arranged for a delivery firm from her home town of Worthing in Sussex to drop off £80 worth of helium-filled balloons.
"They arrived at 4 o'clock this morning," she said, standing proudly by the two giant 9s.
"You can join in the birthday celebrations here - not like with the other Royals," she said, "She makes everyone so welcome."
"I have been coming here every year for 20 years," she said, "I love the Queen Mother, she has a great sense of humour."
American visitors were much in evidence as the crowd outside her Majesty the Queen Mother's house grew through the morning.
Linda Baladucci, a native of California who has been living in the UK for two years, had dressed up for the occasion.
Sporting a gold confection of a top hat, and carrying a red, white and blue banner, she said: "I love the Queen Mother, she is my favourite Royal.
"My husband and I were introduced to Prince Charles at a polo match a couple of weeks ago, which was very special - but the Queen Mum is even more special.
"And we Americans just love the pomp of the Royal Family anyway, it's so British."
British was the word that Jocasta Fearn, 25, used to sum up the spirit of the Queen Mother.
Accompanied by her mother, Gay, and clutching bouquets from their Haywards Heath garden, she said: "We are here to show that we support the Royal Family and that there are still people out here who love them and believe in them.
"The Queen Mother is the head of the household - the others do a very good job as well - but she shows the spirit of the country, the resilience to keep going throughout the worst times and the best times.
"She keeps smiling through it all, which is what being British is all about."
Elsewhere, well-wishers were maybe not quite so solemn in their sentiments.
Londoners Terry Stephens and Philip Senogles had a hamper of champers on hand near their deckchairs to celebrate with the Queen Mother, saying: "We started on Bloody Marys".
And children from the age of nine downwards were practising their bows, curtseys and renditions of "Happy Birthday to You".
By midday, the crowds had spilled across the road. "It's very good natured," said PC Vine. "They all know that the Queen Mother won't let them down - she tries to see as many people as possible."
Members of the International Guild of Toastmasters rocked up to the gates a bit later with a nebuchadnezzar of champagne - equivalent to 20 bottles - as they have done for the past 24 years.
And one shirtless youth scuttled away rather sheepishly after the officers of the Parks Constabulary spotted him scaling the Queen Mum's garden wall.
Then, to the great but contained excitement of the couple of thousand bodies outside Clarence House, the 1st Battalion of the Welsh Guards struck up Happy Birthday.
Slightly thrown by the extra notes stuck in there to accommodate "Her Royal Highness", the crowds ploughed on with "Dear Queen Mum" regardless.
A chair had been placed just inside the gate for if she needed it - or if, God forbid, the buggy had conked out mid walkabout, balloons attached and all.
Spontaneous renditions of "Happy Birthday" were accompanied by cheers and bouquet-giving.
"I am so thrilled that I managed to speak to her," said Pamela Diamond, a 55-year-old housewife from Hertfordshire.
"I decided in January that I would be here to see her, and I put it in my diary for August.
"I just said to her, Happy Birthday to the loveliest lady, and many, many more to come I hope. I leaned over and gave her a rose and she leaned over to accept it.
"I have watched her birthday on the television for years and this is the first time I have come here - but I shall be here again next year.
"She seems determined to be here for her 100th birthday - so I am too."