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In challenging times for UK, hopes that the Queen's birthday ceremony acts as anchor

By Chris Peterson in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-06-17 20:10

With the UK beset by terror attacks and a massive loss of life from a burning London tower block, Queen Elizabeth's official birthday celebrations, known as Trooping the Colour, went ahead today, with officials hoping the display of colour and pageantry will help pull the country together.

The Queen, now 91, is viewed with deep affection by many of the country's 65 million population, and for decades the annual Trooping of the Colour ceremony, in which she reviews her personal military bodyguard, has been a focal point of her reign.

In her unusual message issued on her official birthday today, the Queen admitted to a "very sombre national mood", following the tragedies, adding: "Put to the test, the United Kingdom has been resolute in the face of adversity."

The monarch earlier this week met volunteers, residents and community representatives at the scene of the fire, in a 24-storey tower block near London's Notting Hill. Police say 17 are confirmed dead and about 70 missing.

There have been three major terror attacks since March, two in London involving Islamic militants driving vehicles at pedestrians and then attacking survivors with knives, and a suicide bomber who blew himself up at a crowded pop concert in Manchester.

"During recent visits in Manchester and London, I have been profoundly struck by the immediate inclination of people throughout the country to offer comfort and support to those in desperate need.

"United in our sadness, we are equally determined, without fear or favour, to support all those rebuilding lives so horribly affected by injury and loss."

Yesterday hundreds of angry residents affected by the tower fire forced their way into the town hall of Kensington and Chelsea, one of London's wealthiest boroughs, demanding action from council officials and the government.

They eventually withdrew amid scuffles with police and security guards after getting assurances that those made homeless by the fire will be rehoused as soon as possible in the area.

In the Queen's traditional Birthday Honours list, Keith Palmer, the unarmed policeman who was killed trying to stop a knife-wielding attacker enter the Houses of Parliament, was posthumously awarded the country's highest civilian award for bravery, the George Cross.

Political leaders will be hoping the pomp and pageantry of today's ceremony will send a signal that it is business as usual in the UK, as the government struggles to repair the physical and psychological damage caused by this week's fire.

Up until 1987, the Queen, in full dress uniform as a Colonel in the Horse Guards, would ride side-saddle at the head of the procession, but she now parades from Buckingham Palace, along Pall Mall and into Horse Guards Parade, where the main ceremony takes place, watched by thousands of visitors and Britons alike.

This year, armed police and, according to officials, elite Army sniper teams, are guarding the parade, which involves 1,400 officers and men of the Household Division, as well as 200 horses and 400 musicians from 10 military bands and corps of drums.

Contact the reporter on chris@mail.chinadailyuk.com

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