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Queen Elizabeth II renews vow to serve

2012-02-06 15:30

King's Lynn - Queen Elizabeth II renewed her vow to serve on Monday as she made a low-key start to five months of diamond jubilee celebrations marking her 60 years on the throne.

Six decades after the death of her father King George VI on February 6 1952 made the young princess a queen overnight, the monarch said in a message to her subjects that she wanted to "dedicate myself anew to your service".

The 85-year-old also thanked the nation for "the wonderful support and encouragement that you have given to me and Prince Philip over these years", a reference to her husband of 64 years, who recently underwent heart surgery.

In contrast to the lavish celebrations planned for the official jubilee in June, Monday's anniversary was business as usual for the queen as a mark of respect for her beloved "Papa".

About 100 well-wishers braved snow-covered streets to greet the queen as she visited the town hall in King's Lynn in eastern England.

People waved homemade signs saying "we love you ma'am" and urging her "long to reign over us".

Rock solid

The queen, who wore a turquoise hat with feathers and an ivory-coloured coat with turquoise buttons, arrived in a black Range Rover to polite applause, before going inside the building with local officials.

"I think we are lucky to have her, I really do. She's rock solid," said Jean Garbutt, aged 77, who came from Yorkshire in northern England especially to see the monarch.

Colin Edwards, aged 71, from North Wales, said he had composed a poem for the queen which he hoped to give her, adding: "She is absolutely amazing, she is warm, gracious and dedicated to her job. She is an inspiration."

The queen's involvement in jubilee events in the coming months will be restricted to Britain, but other members of the royal family will criss-cross the Commonwealth in her place, from Canada to tiny Tuvalu in the Pacific.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the queen had guided the country "with experience, dignity and quiet authority" - and he dismissed suggestions she was "simply a glittering ornament".

"That misunderstands our constitution and it underestimates our queen. Always dedicated, always resolute and always respected, she is a source of wisdom and continuity," he said.

1 000 boat flotilla

"All my life, and for the lives of most people in this country, she has always been there for us."

Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia, where the queen was greeted by cheering crowds last year, was the first overseas leader to congratulate her, saying her jubilee was a "truly remarkable event".

The celebrations in Britain will culminate in a four-day public holiday on June 2-5, the highlight of which will be a flotilla of 1 000 boats sailing up the River Thames on June 3.

On the fateful day in 1952, the 25-year-old Elizabeth was on a visit to Kenya when she received the news from her husband that her father had passed away in his sleep.

As she returned to Britain, she was greeted at the airport by prime minister Winston Churchill and the enormity of the challenge would have dawned on her.

Her coronation, a solemn affair, did not take place for more than a year, on June 2 1953.

Importance of family

In the message to her subjects, the queen said she and Philip had been "deeply moved" at all the kind messages marking her 60 years on the throne.

She reflected on the importance of family and friendship, and urged her subjects "to look forward to the future with a clear head and a warm heart".

One member of the royal family who will be absent from the early stages of the jubilee celebrations is Prince William, who last week started a six-week mission as a Royal Air Force search and rescue pilot in the Falkland Islands.

Argentina, which claims the islands in the South Atlantic, is furious at the prince's posting.