The Most Rev Justin Welby suggested the Queen had sustained the country “through war and hardship, through turmoil and change” during the St Paul’s Cathedral service to mark her 90th birthday.
And he rejoiced for the way “God’s loving care” had “fearfully and wonderfully” sustained not only the monarch but the Duke of Edinburgh, who was celebrating his 95th birthday yesterday.
Leading figures from national life gathered for the service, which heralded the start of a weekend of celebrations marking the Queen’s milestone. Joining the royal birthday couple in the congregation were Prime Minister David Cameron – who read from the New Testament – the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
The world of politics was represented by former prime ministers Tony Blair and Sir John Major, senior figures from the Cabinet including Chancellor George Osborne and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Governors general from the Queen’s realms were also among those invited, along with faith leaders and hundreds of people nominated by Government departments to recognise their service.
Archbishop Welby began his sermon by telling the congregation of more than 2,000: “Ninety years ago, Her Majesty The Queen was born, like every human being, knit together in her mother’s womb, and today we thank God for the way in which she, like every human being, is fearfully and wonderfully made.
“Before we ever come to light, God marks our journeys. No one at the Queen’s birth knew for what she was destined. Today we recognise that God knew.”
He went on: “We are here today to worship the God who made our Queen, and to celebrate the way in which God’s hand has been so uniquely evident in her life.”
Archbishop Welby read excerpts from Psalm 139 and told the congregation it explored “fear and wonder, and the connection between them”. He added: “Over the 63 years and the 90 years there has been much to fear: at times of personal challenge or national crisis. But just as the Psalmist sees through fear to something more stirring and more extraordinary, so we look back on Your Majesty’s 90 years in the life of our nation with deep wonder and profound gratitude.
“Through war and hardship, through turmoil and change, we have been fearfully and wonderfully sustained.”
Born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York on April 21 1926 – the year of the General Strike – she was never expected to be Queen.
But she has become the longest reigning and oldest monarch in British history – the first to reach 90.
Archbishop Welby ended his sermon with the words: “Your Majesty, today we rejoice for the way in which God’s loving care has fearfully and wonderfully sustained you – as well as Prince Philip marking his 95th birthday.
“And we rejoice, Your Majesty, for the way in which the life God has given you, in turn you have given wonderfully in service to this nation.
During the service Sir David Attenborough read Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond’s personal account of growing up to be 90. It was one of three birthday gifts featured in the ceremony for the monarch, and brought laughter from the congregation.
Sir David, who like the children’s author turned 90 earlier this year, recounted one story about Bond’s “very polite” but accident-prone father, who always wore a hat, even when swimming in the sea, in case he met someone he knew. The congregation heard another birthday present for the Queen, the anthem I Love All Beauteous Things, written to mark the monarch’s milestone by Judith Weir, Master of the Queen’s Music, who set to music a poem by Robert Bridges, poet laureate in the year the Queen was born.
The final gift saw Martin James Bartlett, the BBC Young Musician of the Year for 2014, perform the piece Burlesque by Arnold Bax, who was the first Master of the Queen’s Music.