Queen cheered at Australia celebration

The Queen celebrated Commonwealth Day in Australia by attending a service at Sydney's St Andrew's Cathedral with the Duke of Edinburgh and the Earl of Wessex yesterday.

It was the first time the monarch had attended the event outside the UK.

As she left the service, she was cheered by hundreds of schoolchildren and well-wishers and spent time collecting bouquets from the crowd.

Meanwhile the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall attended a colourful ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London.

More than 2,000 people gathered for the multi-faith service, coming together to read six affirmations.

Among them were pledges to care for the world and to celebrate faith and love.

Music by a steel band from Burntwood School rang out around the ornate abbey as flags from countries belonging to the Commonwealth were carried through the abbey by representatives of the member nations in traditional dress.

Newly-appointed Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell was among those who attended.

A display of acrobatics by the Bromley Valley Jets gymnastic display team to music from Cirque du Soleil left the guests in awe.

A number of personal testimonies were read, including one by London bombing survivor Rachel North. She suffered minor injuries when she was travelling in the first carriage of the Piccadilly line Tube train from King’s Cross to Russell Square when a bomb exploding seven feet away from her last July.

Ms North set up a website about her experiences and founded the King’s Cross United support group.

She said: “The London bombings of last July did not come out of the blue – they were caused by people’s actions.

“Yet hope can follow horror. I am proud to be part of a group of survivors of all ages, of many races and faiths, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh – my fellow passengers.”

She added: “We were strangers before 7/7, but when the bomb exploded we looked after each other in the smoke and the dark.

“Later we met, set up a website and became friends.”

Earlier in the day, the Prince and the Duchess visited one of Britain’s biggest Sikh temples in Hounslow, west London.

Camilla could hardly bear to watch as she was treated to a hair-raising display of Sikh swordsmanship.

In her pre-recorded Commonwealth Day message, the Queen, as head of the Commonwealth, spoke of the 40m people suffering from HIV and Aids and the 500,000 women who die in pregnancy and childbirth each year.

The Queen said that many of the deaths were preventable with adequate healthcare.