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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2006, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Queen hails her 99 'exact twins'
Guests at Buckingham Palace
Some guests came from Australia, New Zealand and Canada

The Queen has had lunch with 99 people who were born on the same day as her, as part of her 80th birthday celebrations.

The monarch described the 70 women and 29 men who attended the Buckingham Palace reception as her "exact twins".

For many of the soon-to-be 80-year-olds, who were all born on 21 April 1926, the occasion proved to be an emotional one.

As they mingled in the palace picture gallery, Doreen O'Leary from Oswestry in Shropshire described the event as the best day of her life.

"It means everything to be here today. I'm getting a bit watery. I've shed a few tears today."

'Lovely day'

Mrs O'Leary, who has four grandchildren and one great grandson, said she was delighted to have chatted to the Queen.

Sipping on a glass of sherry, she said: "I think she is lovely. She looks different from on TV. She's very small. She was asking us where we were from and I thanked her for giving us a lovely day."

Doreen O'Leary
Doreen O'Leary confessed to shedding a few tears

Another of the Queen's "exact twins", Bertie Hucklesby, tripped and fell as he left his car to walk up the palace steps.

Sporting a cut on his nose and a sore knee, Mr Hucklesby, from Toddington in Bedfordshire said: "My knee's not too bad, but if I sit down I think it will seize up.

"The Queen asked me how I was - she knew apparently."

Mr Hucklesby was later given a plaster to put on the bridge of his nose and was taken to lunch in a wheelchair.

But the former navy servicemen, who brought his grandson Michael with him, said: "It's once in a lifetime. It won't happen again, I'm proud to be 80."

'Nothing better'

John Forrester, who had travelled from Australia, was rewarded with a seat next to the Queen at the lunch.

He described her as the "most natural person in the world", adding that she would "endear herself to anybody and everybody".

"You look back over your life and say 'when have I bettered it?' Well, when I got married, when I had kids, yes, but beyond that this has to be the top of the tree."

Bertie Hucklesby
Even the Queen had heard about Bertie Hucklesby's mishap

The guests were treated to a three-course lunch, with the main course of filet de boeuf bordelaise being served on a royal silver dinner service normally reserved for state banquets.

The solid silver plates, decorated with the Prince of Wales's feathers, garter and coronet, date from 1893 to 1902.

The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, told her guests "we can and should count our blessings".

"I doubt whether any of us would say the last 80 years has been plain sailing.

"But we can give thanks for our health and happiness, the support we receive from our families and friends, some wonderful memories and the excitement that each new day brings."

She thanked her guests for coming, adding: "I hope all those of you who are my exact twins will make the most of our special day on Friday.

"A happy birthday to you all."

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