LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II is older, her husband’s face more etched by time, but the Remembrance Sunday ceremony remains reassuringly the same: two minutes of silence, then the monarch lays a poppy-laden wreath at the foot of the Cenotaph, followed by senior royals and other dignitaries.
It is Britain’s way of honoring its fallen soldiers, and it remains a national focal point, much as it was when Elizabeth, 88, was a young princess. There is the mournful symphonic music, the march of around 10,000 veterans, and the sense that Britain and much of the Commonwealth has come to a halt to recognize those who have lost their lives in battle.
Prime Minister David Cameron called this year’s event particularly poignant because 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. He also cited the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the conclusion of Britain’s military operations in Afghanistan.
The pageantry harkens back to the days of the British Empire, even as contemporary losses of British personnel in Afghanistan are sadly noted.
Elizabeth, dressed in black, bowed her head after she placed the wreath at the Cenotaph, built after World War I to recognize soldiers killed in action. She spent more than a half hour standing motionless as the ceremony unfolded.
The queen was followed to the Cenotaph by her husband, 93-year-old Prince Philip, who saluted after placing his wreath. The Royal Navy World War II veteran wore a ceremonial uniform. Next came Prince Charles, also a veteran, and Prince William, who served as a military helicopter rescue pilot, and other royals.
William’s pregnant wife Kate and Charles’ wife Camilla watched from a nearby balcony. Both wore black.
The royals were followed by Cameron, and other politicians and dignitaries from Britain, Commonwealth countries and the Republic of Ireland.
Large crowds, including a leather-lunged enthusiast who managed to shout “Hooray” loudly enough to be picked up by national television, thronged the surrounding streets on a cold, clear day in the capital.
The ceremony took place amid increased security concerns because of recent terrorism-related arrests and a nationwide terror threat assessed to be “severe.”
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