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Comment 13 MARCH 2012

Hats off to the Queen of the Commonwealth

13 MARCH 2012

For someone younger, this year's Jubilee schedule would be challenging. At 85, it's particularly impressive.

The Queen, who last week charmed crowds in Leicester at the start of a four-month tour of Britain, had another high profile engagement on Monday.

Elegantly turned out in what is clearly her favourite colour, cerise, the monarch marked Commonwealth Day with a service at Westminster Abbey and an evening reception.



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In support at the Abbey was the Countess of Wessex, lightly tanned from her successful trip to the Caribbean on behalf of her mother-in-law, and dazzling in an extravagant feather trimmed hat by milliner, Jane Taylor.

Meanwhile, the Duchess of Cornwall looked striking in purple. 

Westminster Abbey was one of the first dates on the Jubilee calendar, to celebrate the Queen's role as head of the 54 Commonwealth states.

 

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The organisation is made up of countries that previously formed part of the British Empire, and the sovereign is still head of state for some of them, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Many colours, one humanity was the message behind the multi-faith service which began with a procession of flag bearers displaying their national emblems.

In a pre-recorded address that was played to the 1,000-strong congregation, which was mostly made up of schoolchildren, the Queen, who is the most travelled monarch in history, stressed the importance of diversity.

 

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She said: " 'Connecting Cultures' is our Commonwealth theme this year, it encourages us to consider the special opportunities we have, as members of this unique gathering of nations, to celebrate an extraordinary cultural tapestry."

"Our circumstances and surroundings may vary enormously, for example in the food we eat and the clothes we wear, but we share one humanity, and this draws us all together". 

The inspiring address was also infused with a modern twist, where the monarch drew attention to celebrating through the 'creative genius' of artists.

 

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Emphasising this sentiment, Canadian singer Rufus Wainwright gave a haunting rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.

"It's a great honour, it's wonderful to be here," he said after the service.

Primatologist Jane Goodall, who studies wild chimpanzees in Tanzania, put the spirit of the Commonwealth into context with her keynote speech.

She said: "It was connections between England and Kenya that first enabled me to achieve my childhood dream when I sailed from England in 1957.

"It was connections with Kenya and Tanzania that enabled me start my studies...that I continue today."

The Queen: A royal life in pictures

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