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Queen Elizabeth Birthday Blunder: Clinton Sends Greetings A WEEK EARLY

Queen Elizabeth

MATTHEW LEE   06/ 4/10 10:55 PM ET   AP

WASHINGTON — But will she be amused? The State Department has conceded committing a diplomatic faux pas by sending birthday greetings to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II a week early.

Spokesman P.J. Crowley allowed that a congratulatory message from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sent Friday on what the department thought was the eve of the queen's official birthday had been premature.

"We were a week early," the chagrinned spokesman told reporters, adding quickly, "As always, better to give a greeting a week early than a week late."

In London, Buckingham Palace confirmed it was aware of the mistake but declined to say whether the State Department had offered an apology. Under palace policy, the queen's office does not comment on details of correspondence with other nations.

"No offense was taken at all," said a palace official, who spoke anonymously in keeping with official British policy.

The queen's actual birthday is on April 21, but she celebrates a second, so-called official birthday, on a Saturday in June decided by the government – this year on June 12. The tradition of celebrating two birthdays began under King Edward VII, who was born in November but wanted his birthday parade to take place in summer weather.

Clinton's message, sent on behalf of President Barack Obama and the American people, wished the queen well on her 84th birthday and hailed the "special relationship" between Britain and the U.S.

That "special relationship" has been the subject of debate in Britain, where some politicians feel too much emphasis has been placed on it.

"On this celebratory occasion, we pay tribute to the queen's life and legacy and honor the special relationship between our two nations," Clinton said. The statement noted that "the young princess Elizabeth helped rally her nation in the darkest days of that war, and she has remained a beacon of integrity and resolve ever since."

"The United States has always been grateful for her friendship and example," she said. "Once again, I wish Queen Elizabeth II a very happy birthday and peace and prosperity for the people of the United Kingdom in the year to come."

Only problem, it was a week too soon.

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Associated Press writer David Stringer contributed to this report from London.

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Filed by Nicholas Sabloff  |