Celebrations to mark Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years on the British throne reached a crescendo Tuesday as the monarch appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony in front of cheering crowds and the Royal Air Force staged a flyby.
Thousands of well-wishers waving flags surged toward the monarch's central London residence for the finale of four days of Diamond Jubilee events.
An hour earlier, the queen had returned from lunch at Parliament in an open horse-drawn carriage. She attended a morning service of thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral in the financial district and in the evening thanked those who organized and attended the celebrations.
"The events I have attended to mark my Diamond Jubilee have been a humbling experience," the monarch, 86, said in a television broadcast. "I hope that memories of all this year's happy events will brighten our lives for many years to come. I will continue to treasure and draw inspiration from the countless kindnesses shown to me in this country and throughout the Commonwealth. Thank you all."
The forecasted rain largely held off during the day. A shadow was cast over the celebrations Monday when the queen's husband, Prince Philip, who turns 91 next week, was hospitalized with a bladder infection.
"We've seen people coming together in tremendous unity and spirit," Prime Minister David Cameron told BBC television. "We've also seen a great resilience -- people wanting to celebrate even though the weather's been pretty bad -- and an extraordinary resilience on behalf of her majesty, who, in spite of all the problems and difficulties, has kept going, and with such incredible spirit. She's a real inspiration."
Cameron was among the congregation in St. Paul's for the thanksgiving service. Chants of "God Save the Queen" broke out as the monarch arrived at the cathedral door to a fanfare of trumpets. Eighteen RAF planes, including a World War II Lancaster bomber and the Red Arrows display team trailing red, white and blue smoke, took part in the flyby.
With Prince Philip absent, the queen's son and heir to the throne, Prince Charles, sat next to his mother during the service.
Philip also missed a concert Monday outside Buckingham Palace that featured stars including Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.
Charles and his wife, Camilla, traveled in the queen's carriage in Tuesday afternoon's procession, followed by Charles' sons and daughter-in-law, Prince William, Catherine and Prince Harry.
Only one British monarch has spent longer than the current queen on the throne: Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901. Her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, captured on grainy black-and-white film, is the only precedent for this week's events.
Fears that the celebrations would be met with apathy in an anxious, recession-afflicted Britain were unfounded. Enormous crowds greeted the queen over the four-day celebration. More than 1 million people lined the Thames on Sunday for a river pageant, despite dismal weather, and hundreds of thousands packed the Mall outside Buckingham Palace on Tuesday for a glimpse of the royal family.
Throughout the jubilee, the queen was cast as a servant of the British people, rather than their sovereign.
"I think the monarchy has always adapted itself to contemporary circumstances and has become what I call a public service monarchy," said Vernon Bogdanor, a constitutional expert and professor at King's College London. eos
The Associated Press contributed to this report.