Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee celebrations have officially begun with a 41-gun salute at the Horse Guards Parade in central London, marking the exact anniversary of her coronation.
The 86-year-old monarch was given a rapturous reception as a flag-waving crowd of more than 130,000 welcomed her to Epsom racecourse at the start of celebrations commemorating her 60-year reign.
Race-goers were treated to an aerial display of the British Army's Red Devils parachute team as they trailed huge Union Jack flags and red smoke across the sky.
Despite a forecast of damp, cool weather for the long weekend, hundreds of thousands of people were expected to participate in the celebrations, including street parties. On Sunday a 1,000-boat flotilla down the River Thames is planned along with an open-air concert in front of Buckingham Palace. International acts including Elton John and Paul McCartney are set to take to the stage.
Anti-monarchist group Republic are planning a protest as the Queen heads the 1,000 strong flotilla on Sunday.
A religious service at St. Peter's Cathedral and a carriage procession through the streets of London are among the events that will mark the end of the Jubilee celebrations on Tuesday.
Prime Minister David Cameron, the 12th leader to have served during the queen's reign, paid tribute to her "extraordinary level of physical energy, mental energy, and - above all - devotion to her people, to the institutions of this country, to the way our democracy works."
British politicians from the country's three main parties are backing a motion which has called for the tower housing Big Ben, the world's most photographed clock, to be named in honor of the queen. A turtle farm in the Cayman Islands says it is freeing a 60-year-old turtle in celebration of the queen's 60 years on the throne.
Religious leaders and writers have used the Jubilee to reflect on the changes Britain has gone through since the monarch's coronation, from a war-wounded imperial power to a middle-sized power with significant cultural influence.
Queen Elizabeth began her reign in 1952 when her father, King George VI passed away. Her coronation took place one year later in June, 1953.
jlw/rc (AFP, Reuters, AP)