Aided only by a silver-handled cane, a beaming Queen Mother Elizabeth greeted the thousands of well-wishers outside her residence today, her 99th birthday, accepting scores of bouquets and cards.

After walking along the line of admirers outside Clarence House, the officially titled Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, a hugely popular member of the royal family, made the return journey in a golf cart driven by a uniformed chauffeur.

Two birthday balloons billowed from the cart and a corgi, the favored breed of royal dog, ran alongside.

In brilliant sunshine, the band of the Welsh Guards marched past playing "Happy Birthday," while the Queen Mother stood firmly, declining the chair that aides placed behind her.

After the morning greetings, she was presiding over a lunch for the family, with her daughter Queen Elizabeth II coming over from nearby Buckingham Palace.

Before lunch, she popped outside again to receive a 41-gun salute and pose with some of her luncheon guests, who included her grandson and heir to the throne Prince Charles; his sons, Princes William and Harry; her younger daughter, Princess Margaret; grandson Prince Edward and his new wife, Sophie; and granddaughter Princess Anne.

About 5,000 people crowded against police barricades to see the royal whose life spans the century. Many had waited since early morning.

"This is such a great show," said Mary Durning, 47, visiting from Hamilton, Ohio. "There is nobody that could come out in our country at age 99 and the people show so much love and respect."

The British Broadcasting Corp. played the national anthem on news bulletins as a birthday tribute.

An official portrait taken by Lord Snowdon, Margaret's former husband, showed the Queen Mother holding her great-grandson Arthur Chatto at his recent christening. Arthur is the child of Lady Sarah Chatto, Margaret's daughter with Snowdon.

The Queen Mother, the daughter of a Scottish earl, has been a widow for 47 years since her husband, King George VI, died of lung cancer.

She never expected to be queen. George came to the throne in 1936 because his brother, Edward VIII, abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Next year, the Queen Mother will be due for the signed card and picture that the queen sends to every subject who makes it to the age of 100.

CAPTION: Britain's Queen Mother turned 99 yesterday, and spent part of her birthday accepting the tributes of well-wishers who gathered outside her London home. Below, Linda Balducci of San Diego was one of many who waited to greet her.