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Half century in style

Fifty years after her lavish coronation at Westminster Abbey, Queen Elizabeth II returns to celebrate with less fanfare, but just as many fans.

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 3, 2003

LONDON - Fifty years after her glittering coronation brought a dose of badly needed glamor to a nation still recovering from war, Queen Elizabeth II marked the event's anniversary Monday with a somber service followed by a dash of contemporary informality.

Hundreds of onlookers cheered and waved as the queen's limousine pulled up to Westminster Abbey, where she was crowned in 1953. Inside, more than 2,000 people, including representatives of most major faiths, gave thanks for Elizabeth's reign.

Later, about 500 children flocked to Buckingham Palace for a more casual celebration - games, clowns, a carousel and a circus tent in the garden for the youngsters, many of them poor, orphaned or disabled. Some were invited because their parents served in the Iraq war.

"It's really very nice to see you all here," Elizabeth, 77, told the group.

The children got autographs from popular musicians and radio disc jockeys, munched cotton candy and watched clowns and other acts inside the circus tent.

The Westminster Abbey service was modest compared with the coronation itself, when huge crowds gathered to watch the bejeweled, 27-year-old Elizabeth arrive in her ornate Gold State Coach. The celebrations were also far more low-key than last year's Golden Jubilee festivities marking the 50th anniversary of Elizabeth's accession to the throne, which came more than a year before her coronation ceremony.

This time, the abbey's bells chimed and a fanfare of trumpets played to herald the silver-haired monarch's arrival with her husband, Prince Philip.

"On this significant anniversary, with quiet but deep respect and affection, we stand with our sovereign, and each and all of us commit ourselves anew to that duty and service which are both hers and ours," said the Very Rev. Wesley Carr, dean of Westminster.

Sixteen senior members of the royal family attended, although grandson Prince Harry - third in line to the throne - was unable to take part because of school exams.

More than 200 people who took part in the original coronation ceremony attended the anniversary, along with 34 "coronation babies" born on June 2, 1953. About 1,000 members of the public won tickets in a lottery.

Elizabeth acceded to the throne Feb. 6, 1952, on the death of her father, King George VI, but her coronation took place 16 months later.

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