Ringing church bells, artillery salutes and crowds cheering "God save the Queen!" have greeted Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in honour of her 60 years on the throne.

Missing from Tuesday's celebrations in London was Prince Philip, her husband of 64 years, who was in hospital for treatment of a bladder infection.

At a morning service of thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, praised the queen for bringing happiness to the nation.

"We are marking six decades of living proof that public service is possible and that it is a place where happiness can be found," he told the royals and dignitaries filling the church.

Elizabeth, 86, returned to Buckingham Palace in the afternoon, braving the first few drops of rain in an open carriage, later to appear on the palace balcony with the present and future of the monarchy: her heir, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla, Prince William, the second-in-line, and his wife, Kate, and William's brother, Prince Harry.

In a rare televised statement, Elizabeth said the jubilee celebrations had been "a humbling experience".

"I will continue to treasure and draw inspiration from the countless kindnesses shown to me in this country and throughout the Commonwealth,'' Elizabeth said in the two-minute broadcast, shown in Britain and the 54-nation
Commonwealth of its former colonies.

It was not a role she chose, but one thrust upon her when her uncle David, King Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936. The queen's father became king and Elizabeth, the elder daughter, was destined to reign.

Within the constraints of a constitutional monarchy, the queen's life has been one of ceremonial duty, world travel and the pleasures of great wealth.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies