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Rain Drenches Queen's Birthday Salute

Saturday June 16

By BETH GARDINER, Associated Press Writer

LONDON (AP) - Guardsmen's impeccable red coats were soaked and their carefully buffed dress shoes muddied, but a royal downpour couldn't dampen the elegance of Britain's annual birthday salute to Queen Elizabeth II on Saturday.

Two white horses led the monarch's open carriage from Buckingham Palace down The Mall to the Horseguard's parade ground. She held a delicate white umbrella, but the torrential rain held off until she was safely seated under a canopy on the reviewing dais.

The Trooping of the Color, one of Britain's most splendid parades, is part of the official celebration of Elizabeth's birthday, although she actually turned 75 on April 21.

She marked the occasion then with a low-key private celebration, a 41-gun salute in Hyde Park and 21 guns at the Tower of London.

But no matter when the reigning sovereign was born, the pomp always waits until a Saturday in June in the hope that good weather will grace the parade.

There was no such luck this year - parading soldiers sloshed through puddles that were nearly ankle-deep, and the Royal Air Force had to cancel a flyover planned above Buckingham Palace.

But the queen, in a sage green wool coat and broad-brimmed hat trimmed with silk, appeared unruffled as she rolled past rows of soldiers standing at attention on her way to the trooping ceremony.

She was followed on horseback by her husband, Prince Philip, her son, Prince Charles, and her daughter, Anne, the Princess Royal.

Her mother, the centenarian Queen Mother Elizabeth, who has attended the Trooping of the Color since the 1920s, watched with Prince Edward from a nearby balcony.

The ceremony, which dates from the early 18th century, lasted more than an hour.

Every year, a regiment is chosen to present its color, or flag, to the monarch. This year it was the Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards.

Trooping originated centuries ago, when flag carriers would march through ranks of soldiers on the eve of battle so all would be able to recognize their banner during fighting the next day.

The ceremony - which includes 700 guards and 400 musicians - is planned down to the last detail. This year, a guardsman visited royal gardeners so they could be sure the shade of their red roses perfectly matched the color of his regiment's uniforms.

Despite the rain, the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery gave Elizabeth a 41-gun royal salute from Green Park, near the palace.

Later, the royal family waved to admirers from a palace balcony.

The queen also released her annual list of birthday honors Saturday, announcing awards to a diverse array of recipients including actor Dudley Moore, actress Eileen Atkins, round-the-world yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur and auto-racing legend Jackie Stewart.

Stewart received a knighthood and Atkins was made a dame, the female equivalent of a knight. Moore was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, and MacArthur a Member of the Order of the British Empire, or MBE.

Vodafone CEO Chris Gent, Reuters news agency CEO Peter Job and architect Terry Farrell were also knighted.

Officially bestowed by the queen, the list is actually compiled by the government to recognize people from all walks of life for their contributions to their professions and to charity.

This year's awards list also included teachers, a waitress, a crossing guard and a bus driver, plus several people recognized for their efforts during floods that inundated much of Britain last fall.

In descending order, the honors are knighthoods, CBE, MBE and Officer of the Order of the British Empire, or OBE.



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