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Queen marks 60 years of marriage

  • Story Highlights
  • Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip celebrate 60th wedding anniversary
  • NEW: Tributes paid to couple's commitment to the nation as well as each other
  • Service of thanksgiving held at London's Westminster Abbey
  • About 2,000 guests attend including British PM Gordon Brown and former PMs
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary Monday with a service of thanksgiving at London's Westminster Abbey.

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The royal couple unveiled the Jubilee Walkway panel on Parliament Square in central London.

The Queen and Prince Philip were joined by members of their own family, including Prince Charles and his sons William and Harry, at the abbey, the scene of their original wedding ceremony.

The 2,000 invited guests for the service -- which took place a day before the actual anniversary -- also included British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former British leaders Margaret Thatcher and John Major, past and present royal household staff, and some of Prince Philip's German relatives.

Ten couples who married on the same day as the queen were also invited. The diamond wedding anniversary makes the queen the longest-married monarch in British history.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who conducted the service, praised the couple for enduring the pressures of a marriage lived in "the full light of publicity." He said the couple's commitment has been inspiring for the nation.

"Today we celebrate not only a marriage, but also the relationship between monarch and people of which that marriage, too, is a symbol," the archbishop said, "a relationship in which we see what levels of commitment are possible by someone upheld by a clear sense of God's calling and enabling."

The queen, dressed in a white skirt suit and hat with white gloves and a black bag, listened as her husband, dressed in a black suit, sat next to her.

Oscar-winning British actress Judi Dench read a poem written by Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, at the event.

Titled "Diamond Wedding," the poem spoke of love and duty tempered by tenderness.

"The years stacked up and as their weight increased, they pressed the stone of time to diamond -- immortal, mortal, in its brilliant strength," Dench read.

At the conclusion of the service, the queen and her husband viewed the wedding register, which they signed 60 years earlier. The monarch then greeted 10 other couples who married on the same day, all of whom had been invited to the service.

A brief reprieve in the day's rain coincided with the couple's exit from the church to a cacophony of church bells and a waiting black limousine.

Today's event took place in a Britain far removed from that of November 20, 1947, when the queen -- or Princess Elizabeth as she was then -- and Prince Philip tied the knot in front of 2,600 guests.

In a country struggling to get back on to its feet after World War II, the royal wedding was a source of optimism. Winston Churchill called it "a flash of color on the hard road we travel."

The royal couple received more than 2,500 wedding presents, including a textile from Mahatma Gandhi which the Indian leader crafted himself and a casket-shaped crystal vase and cover from U.S. President Harry S. Truman.

Rationing brought in during the war meant Princess Elizabeth had to save up clothing coupons to buy her wedding dress, like other brides of the time.

Unlike most other brides, however, the princess had her dress designed by the master courtier Norman Hartnell, the official dressmaker to the royal family.

Hartnell based the wedding dress on the painting, Spring, by the Italian renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli.

The costume was made of satin woven from silk from Chinese silkworms and decorated with 10,000 pearls.

The princess had eight bridesmaids, led by her sister Princess Margaret. In a letter to his daughter, King George VI told Princess Elizabeth of his pride at watching her go down the aisle.

"You were so calm and composed during the service and said your words with such conviction, that I knew everything was all right," he wrote.

The choir boys who performed at the 1947 ceremony also attended Monday's thanksgiving service.

Some of the singers, who were between nine and 13 at the time, carried candles at the service.

The choir singers were not the only original features from the royal wedding to make a reappearance.

Duncan Jeffrey, a spokesman for Westminster Abbey, said the altar cloth used at the wedding also decorated the altar at Monday's ceremony.

Made from embroidered silk and decorated with the royal insignia, the cloth was commissioned for the coronation of King George V, the queen's grandfather, and has not been used since the 1947 ceremony, Jeffrey said.

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The cloth was the only decoration from the queen's wedding to feature at the thanksgiving service, he said.

Although as Jeffrey said: "Since the abbey has barely changed in the last 60 years, much of it will look just as did for the original ceremony." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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