Queen Elizabeth marks 60 years of marriage
By Paul Majendie
LONDON (Reuters) - Queen Elizabeth, the first reigning British monarch to celebrate a diamond wedding anniversary, marked the milestone on Monday with a service of thanksgiving alongside her husband Prince Philip.
The royal octogenarians, whose family have been buffeted by a string of scandals, divorces and tragedy, retraced their steps up the aisle of Westminster Abbey to hail 60 years of marriage.
The family's German relations were not invited to their 1947 wedding because of strong anti-German feeling in Britain after World War Two. This time they were on the guest list.
The 2,000-strong congregation included playwright Tom Stoppard and opera singer Joan Sutherland, as well as four other British couples also celebrating diamond wedding anniversaries.
The service was staged the day before the actual anniversary -- November 20. On Tuesday, the royal couple will mark the day by flying to the Mediterranean island of Malta where Prince Philip was serving as a naval officer at the time of their marriage.
The wedding of Elizabeth, who had been in love with Philip since she was a child, offered a rare burst of colour and pageantry in an austere post-war world of rationing and shortages in Britain.
On her wedding day, the 21-year-old princess wore an ivory silk Norman Hartnell gown decorated with 10,000 seed pearls.
PARTNERSHIP FOR LIFE
In sharp contrast to their own marriage, three of the royal couple's four children have divorced.
Prince Andrew, the queen's second son, said in an interview last week that his own divorce from Sarah Ferguson had disappointed his parents who firmly believe in the "old-fashioned idea" that marriage is a partnership for life.
The 81-year-old monarch and her 86-year-old husband were greeted at the doors of Westminster Abbey by a fanfare of trumpets. Five choristers who sang at their wedding as schoolboys carried candles in the anniversary procession.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the world's 77 million Anglicans, praised the royal marriage as a faithful and creative partnership lived "in the full light of publicity."
"We are probably more aware than ever these days of the pressures this brings and the costs it involves," he said.
"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."
Among those who gave readings was Oscar-winning actress Judi Dench, who recited a poem by Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, and Prince William, the queen's grandson.