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Queen Elizabeth vows continued service in speech to Parliament

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Tue March 20, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Queen Elizabeth II praises her people's "virtues of resilience, ingenuity and tolerance"
  • She spoke to both houses of Parliament as she marks 60 years on the throne
  • A stained glass window was presented to the monarch by Parliament
  • The Diamond Jubilee celebrations will culminate in June

London (CNN) -- Queen Elizabeth II pledged to rededicate herself to the service of her people Tuesday, as she addressed both houses of Parliament as part of celebrations of her Diamond Jubilee, or 60 years on the throne.

Dignitaries including present and former government leaders gathered for the speech in Westminster Hall, in London, in which the Queen reflected on the landmark.

"We are reminded here of our past, of the continuity of our national story and the virtues of resilience, ingenuity and tolerance which created it," she said.

"I have been privileged to witness some of that history and, with the support of my family, rededicate myself to the service of our great country and its people now and in the years to come."

She was presented with a stained-glass window specially commissioned by members of the House of Lords and House of Commons to commemorate the occasion. Made up of 1,500 pieces of glass, it was paid for by personal contributions from the lawmakers and peers and will be on permanent display in the grand environs of Westminster Hall.

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Queen Elizabeth commented that she is the second British monarch to mark 60 years on the throne, with Queen Victoria the first to do so in 1897.

"So, in an era when the regular, worthy rhythm of life is less eye-catching than doing something extraordinary, I am reassured that I am merely the second sovereign to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee," she said.

Queen Elizabeth previously addressed both houses of Parliament when she celebrated her Silver and Golden Jubilees, in 1977 and 2002 respectively. She also opens the new session of Parliament each year.

Addressing the packed hall, the British monarch recognized the "remarkable courage and sacrifice" of the armed forces, and the many people who serve the public good by volunteering.

During her many years on the throne, the support of her own family had been "beyond measure," she said.

She paid special tribute to the contribution of her husband, Prince Philip, who accompanies her on many of her official visits and suffered a health scare at the end of last year.

"Prince Philip is, I believe, well-known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide," she said.

She also praised the efforts of the younger generations of royals and commented on the family's "close affinity" with the Commonwealth nations, which together encompass about a third of the world's population.

"My own association with the Commonwealth has taught me that the most important contact between nations is usually contact between its peoples," she said.

Prince Harry, the 27-year-old son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, traveled through the Caribbean and Brazil earlier this month on a 10-day tour to mark his grandmother's Diamond Jubilee.

Celebrations marking six decades on the throne for Queen Elizabeth II officially began last month and continue through June, when London will mark the anniversary of her coronation with festivities including up to 1,000 boats sailing up the River Thames.

Though the 85-year-old monarch has no real political power, she is officially the head of state for the Commonwealth of Nations, an association of 16 countries that used to be part of the British Empire.

CNN's Max Foster contributed to this report.

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