Royal celebrations for queen’s wedding anniversary

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on Monday with a moving thanksgiving service in Westminster Abbey, the church where they married 60 years ago.

The pomp and splendour of the traditional ceremony came a day before the anniversary itself, which the couple are to mark on Tuesday with a trip to Malta to relive their newly-wed days on the Mediterranean island.

The queen, the first monarch to celebrate six decades of marriage on the throne, wore a white suit alongside her black-clad consort for the hour-long service, attended by a 2 000-strong congregation.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown was among the ranks of great and good invited, while the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a sermon praising the royal couple’s resilience in the public gaze of the modern age.

While the ceremony was broadcast live on the BBC, coverage was relatively low-key and the anniversary had little of the sense of state occasion, in line with recent years when the role of the royal family has been increasingly questioned.

”Today we celebrate not only a marriage, but the relationship between monarch and people of which also that marriage is a symbol,” said the archbishop, Rowan Williams.

”So before we complain too loudly about a world of disposable relationships and short-term policies, a world of fracturing and insecure international bonds and the decline of trust, we should remember today that we have cause for thanksgiving.”

Prince William, second in line to the throne, gave a reading, while actress Judi Dench read a poem by poet laureate Andrew Motion, which referred to ”a life remote from ours because it asked each day, each action to be kept in view”.

But the most personal part of the anniversary programme will be the trip to Malta on Tuesday — an idea of Prince Philip’s. The former queen of Malta when it was still a British possession and her husband will be guests of the republic’s government.

Queen Elizabeth is known to cherish the time they spent on Malta as a young couple, out of Britain and out of the spotlight in the years before she inherited the throne aged 25 in 1952.

”Malta is a special place for the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh,” a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace, the queen’s official residence, said.

The young princess married the Royal Navy Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, a prince of Greece and Denmark five years her senior and a distant cousin, on November 20 1947.

The ceremony at London’s Westminster Abbey dispelled some of the gloom in a post-World War II Britain where food and other items were still rationed.

They spent several periods on Malta between 1949 and 1951 when Princess Elizabeth performed her duties as a Royal Navy wife before her accession to the throne. She has spoken of her ”deep affection” for the country.

Philip served on the destroyer HMS Chequers with the Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet. The couple lived in a house called Villa Guardamangia.

Prince Andrew, the couple’s second son, said their wedding and enduring marriage was based on firm principles.

”It’s through partnership, discipline, a commitment to each other,” the 47-year-old told ITV television in a weekend interview. ”It was something that was done with the sole intention of being together for the rest of one’s life.”

On Sunday evening the queen’s eldest son, Prince Charles, hosted a family dinner for his parents to mark the anniversary. — AFP



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