LONDON -- Britain's Queen Elizabeth II marked her 85th birthday Thursday by attending the traditional Maundy Service at Westminster Abbey -- where the royal wedding will be held in one week.
The televised service turned out to be something of a dress rehearsal for the media, choristers, and clergy ahead of the global coverage of the nuptials on April 29 between Kate Middleton and Prince William, the queen's grandson.
While the queen, wearing a turquoise dress and coat with matching hat, was cheered by a large crowd of onlookers outside the Abbey, newspapers displayed front-page photographs of Ms. Middleton doing some last-minute shopping on London's fashionable King's Road.
The 29-year-old royal bride-to-be, wearing a black wrap dress, was observed outside shops displaying celebratory garlands and bunting in preparation for the wedding day, after reportedly buying a frilly silk blouse named after her.
It was confirmed that William and Kate visited the grave of Diana, Prince William's mother, at her family home.
Princess Diana, who died in a car accident in Paris in August, 1997, is buried on a small island in a lake at her family estate of Althorp in Northamptonshire, in central England.
The Daily Mirror reported the young couple held hands during their emotional tribute to Diana, as they placed flowers on the grave.
Access to the island by boat is reserved for family members.
Prince William, who has given his bride the sapphire ring worn by his late mother on her engagement to Prince Charles 30 years ago, has said the gift was his way of keeping his mother "close to it all."
Even though Kate never met Diana, it was "very important" for Prince William that his future wife should understand his "love and grief for his mum," the Mirror's royal reporter wrote.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who is due to marry the couple, described William and Kate as two "deeply unpretentious people" who were clear about what mattered about their wedding day.
"William and Catherine are making this commitment very much in the public eye and they're sensible, realistic young people.
"They know what the cost of that might be. They've thought that through," the archbishop said.
"And because of that they will need the support, the solidarity, and the prayers of all those who are watching today," he added.
The queen, who will mark 60 years on the throne in June next year, will have another celebration in June, when she traditionally marks her "official" birthday with the Trooping the Colour parade.
In a service she has performed for 59 years, the queen yesterday carried out the centuries-old Christian tradition of handing maundy money to the "deserving in a gesture of humility."
The recipients this year were 85 elderly women and 85 men, one for each of the monarch's 85 years, in recognition of their services to the church and the community.
The total amount of the specially minted silver coins equals the monarch's age.
The lesson at the service was read by Prince Philip, the queen's husband, who turns 90 in two months.
One day earlier, Wednesday, Ms. Middleton's parents had lunch with the queen and Prince Philip at Windsor Castle. The meeting was the first officially confirmed encounter between the monarch and Michael and Carole Middleton, the future parents-in-law of Prince William.
"The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh hosted Mr. and Mrs. Michael Middleton at a private lunch at Windsor Castle today," Buckingham Palace spokesman said.
Sources described the atmosphere at the lunch as "warm."
The Middletons do not live far from Windsor Castle, in the county of Berkshire.