Queen Elizabeth II marked 60 years since her coronation with a service in London’s Westminster Abbey, where she was crowned, underlining her religious dedication in her role as U.K. head of state.
The hour-long service for 2,000 guests this morning was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, John Hall, and the address was given by the Anglican faith’s most senior cleric, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. As monarch, Elizabeth, 87, is head of the Church of England.
“Here today we gather to give thanks to almighty God for the faithful ministry and dutiful service the queen continues to offer God and the people of this nation, the overseas territories and the realms, and as head of the Commonwealth,” the dean told the congregation.
In her first annual Christmas Day address to the nation in 1952, Elizabeth, who was then yet to be crowned, spoke to her subjects emphasizing the religious nature of her commitment on her coronation day. It was broadcast on BBC radio.
“You will be keeping it as a holiday but I want to ask you all, whatever your religion may be, to pray for me on that day - - to pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve him, and you, all the days of my life,” she said.
Prime Minister David Cameron gave a reading during today’s service, as did the secretary general of the Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma, representing the 54 nations in the grouping of which the Queen is head, mostly former British colonies.
A poem by the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, that was specially written for the anniversary was read by actress Claire Skinner, star of the BBC television comedy “Outnumbered.”
The queen’s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, otherwise known as Prince Philip, attended even though he withdrew from an engagement last night after becoming unwell.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, otherwise known as Prince William and his wife Kate, also took part. She is pregnant with the future third in line to the throne, due in July.
Today’s service was divided into parts called the recognition, anointing, homage and thanksgiving, reflecting the coronation ceremony.
St. Edward’s Crown, which was used in 1953, rested on the High Altar, the first time it had left the Tower of London, where royal jewels are kept, since the coronation. Made of gold and decorated with precious and semi-precious stones, including sapphires, tourmalines, amethysts, topazes and citrines, it weighs 2.23 kilograms (4.9 pounds).
Dating from 1661, the ampulla, a gold, eagle-shaped bottle from which the holy oil was poured for anointing the queen in the most religious part of the service, also stood on the altar in the abbey. A flask of aromatic oil taken from the same batch made for the coronation was carried through the abbey in procession by representatives of the people of Britain.
The monarch was crowned on June 2, 1953, at the age of 27. More than 8,200 witnessed the coronation in the abbey, which was broadcast in one of the first set-piece television events in British history. Only Victoria, who was on the throne from 1837 to 1901, reigned for longer.
The then Princess Elizabeth received the news of her father George VI’s death and her own accession to the throne while staying in a remote part of Kenya on Feb. 6, 1952. She flew home as queen, with the coronation taking place 16 months later.
Last year, the U.K. celebrated the Diamond Jubilee, marking Elizabeth’s 60 years as queen with a pageant on the River Thames in London involving a flotilla of 1,000 boats, a music concert in front of Buckingham Palace and a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Further events are being organized to celebrate the queen’s 60 years. A four-day Coronation Festival will be held in the gardens of Buckingham Palace from July 11 to July 14. Evening galas will include performances by Katherine Jenkins, Russell Watson, Katie Melua and The Feeling.
For its annual summer opening this year, Buckingham Palace will put on an exhibition of coronation outfits.