June 25, 2006

Queen Elizabeth has 2,000 kids to birthday tea

By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 80th
birthday with a Mad Hatter's Tea Party on Sunday for 2,000
wide-eyed children who rubbed shoulders with Winnie the Pooh
and Paddington Bear in the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

The feisty octogenarian turned fairy godmother to treat the
kids to a picnic tea and then a roustabout pantomime about the
day her handbag was stolen.

After turning her back garden into a fantasyland full of
storybook characters, she took to the stage at the end of the
knockabout farce to declare "I am delighted to have my handbag
back. I do like happy endings."

"British children's literature has been for many years an
extraordinary success story," she told the crowd who sang Happy
Birthday to her.

As children's authors mingled with the guests, the biggest
reception was given to JK Rowling, mobbed by children desperate
for an autograph from the author of the Harry Potter wizard

"I think it is a wonderful idea to celebrate the Queen's
80th birthday by celebrating children's literature. I really do
think it is a golden age at the moment," she told reporters at
the most surreal garden party ever staged at the palace.

The neatly trimmed lawns were transformed into a fairyland
with Toad of Toad Hall mingling with Thomas The Tank Engine and
Wallace and Gromit to entertain children who guzzled hampers
provided by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Unlike Alice in Wonderland's disgruntled Queen of Hearts
who cried "Off With Their Heads," Queen Elizabeth delighted in
the fun.

Even her corgi dogs were in mortal danger when Cruella de
Vil grew tired of chasing the 101 Dalmatians and threatened to
skin the Queen's beloved canines for her next coat.

The stars of the Harry Potter films joined in the hunt for
the Queen's handbag while Captain Hook fought a duel with Peter
Pan and Robin Hood.

The show was inspired by Roald Dahl's classic "The BFG"
(The Big Friendly Giant) with his granddaughter, Sophie Dahl,
taking to the stage to play herself.