Queen Marks Jubilee Anniversary
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KING’S LYNN, England (AP) _ Queen Elizabeth II reached a bittersweet milestone Wednesday, marking the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne with a visit to a cancer ward in honor of her father, who died of the disease.
The annual occasion _ also the date of King George VI’s death _ is tinged with sorrow, and the visit to the ward was a break in tradition for the 75-year-old queen. She normally spends the day in privacy with family at Sandringham, the royal estate in Norfolk where her father died.
This year, however, she emerged to open the $1.7 million Macmillan cancer center at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in nearby King’s Lynn, 100 miles north of London.
The queen, accompanied by a lady in waiting, swept into the center’s driveway in a black Rolls Royce to the cheers of around 50 well-wishers.
Wearing a green coat and matching hat over a gold dress to keep out the winter chill, the queen unveiled a plaque in the center.
Local dignitary Sir Timothy Colman, Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, offered the queen ``our congratulations, our respect, our affection and above all our gratitude for the life you have given over 50 years.″
Elizabeth’s fans had waited patiently alongside a bustling crowd of news photographers and television crews, and were not disappointed by the glimpse of their monarch.
``I think she is a great figurehead,″ said Rosemary Durrant, 67, from the nearby town of Dunham Market. ``Without her we would just be lost. I think she holds of the country together as a symbol.″
Dorothy Cornwell, 69, who remembered the death of King George VI, traveled 50 miles to see the queen.
``I felt I had to come and give my support because today is rather a sad day for her,″ she said. ``We should be very very proud that we have got her as queen and long may she reign.″
Elizabeth’s reign is the fifth longest in 1,000 years of English history.
Red, white and blue Union flags fluttered across Britain to mark the anniversary. A 41-gun salute at noon in London’s Hyde Park was followed by a 62-gun salute from the Tower of London an hour later.
In an anniversary message on the royal Web site, the queen thanked her subjects for their good wishes.
``This anniversary is for us an occasion to acknowledge with gratitude the loyalty and support which we have received from so many people since I came to the throne in 1952,″ she wrote.
``I believe that, young or old, we have as much to look forward to with confidence and hope as we have to look back on with pride,″ she wrote.
Concerts and parties are planned this summer to celebrate Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee and the queen has a travel schedule filled with visits around Britain and to other countries in the Commonwealth of its former colonies.
But Accession Day is a sadder and more personal occasion.
The then 25-year-old Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya on Feb. 6, 1952 when she head that her father was dead. George VI had been ailing for months and died in his sleep at Sandringham.
George had won the respect and affection of his subjects after he took the throne following the abdication of his older brother Edward VIII, who stepped down to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
George and his wife Queen Elizabeth _ now the 101-year-old Queen Mother _ were a steadying presence through the war years. Older Britons recall how the couple stayed in London through the Blitz regularly visiting the neighborhoods ruined by German bombs.
Britain was still drained and depressed by the war when its beloved king, a heavy smoker, grew ill and died at 56. Rationing remained in force and the economy was in tatters.
The accession of the glamorous young queen with her handsome husband, Prince Philip, and two small children helped usher in a more hopeful time.
Elizabeth’s reign has brought major changes to the role of the royal family.
Despite the sometimes embarrassing and painfully public antics of Elizabeth’s children, support for the monarchy remains strong.
Two thirds of Britons rated the queen and her family hardworking and highly respected in a MORI opinion poll of 1,000 adults in December and 70 percent wanted to keep the monarchy.
On the Net:
Royal Family: http://www.royal.gov.uk