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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 15:46 GMT
Queen's jubilee message of thanks
Queen Elizabeth II
The Queen opened a cancer unit in King's Lynn
The Queen has sent a message of thanks to the nation, to mark the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne.

"Prince Philip and I have been deeply touched by the many kind messages about the Golden Jubilee," she said, via the official jubilee website.

"This anniversary is for us an occasion to acknowledge with gratitude the loyalty and support which we have received from so many people since I came to the Throne in 1952."

King George VI and a young Prince Charles
King George VI died of lung cancer
The Queen usually spends Accession Day in private at Windsor Castle, as the date marks the death of her father from lung cancer.

But this year, the Queen has decided to stay at Sandringham - the royal estate in Norfolk where George VI died on Wednesday 6 February 1952.

She marked the occasion by opening a 1.2m Macmillan cancer unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in nearby King's Lynn.

The Queen met cancer patients, some receiving chemotherapy, and toured the 12-bed unit, outpatient clinics and the day care room.

Informal monarch

Macmillan Cancer Relief Norfolk chairman Peter de Bunsen said: "It is particularly generous of Her Majesty to visit us on her Accession Day when she must be thinking of her late father."

George VI, a heavy smoker, survived a major operation to remove his left lung but later succumbed to a blood clot which caused a coronary thrombosis.

The Queen was in Kenya when the news of her father's death reached her and immediately returned to begin half a century on the throne.


She is not a 'touchy feely' person... but incredibly unselfish

Margaret Rhodes, the Queen's cousin
News of the King's death shocked a nation stuck in austerity and still recovering from the destruction of World War II.

Elsewhere in the UK, Accession Day was marked with a traditional 41-gun salute over Hyde Park in London and a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London.

The Duke of Norfolk, holder of the oldest dukedom in England, and hereditary Earl Marshall, has been closely involved in Royal ceremonial occasions throughout the Queen's reign.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme she had handled her years on the throne "wonderfully".

He said: "I am a very great admirer of her.

New Golden Jubilee portrait of the queen
Jubilee portrait: Inside Buckingham Palace
"When she succeeded to the throne and on the day of her marriage she said she would devote her life to serving the nation and she has certainly done that."

When his cousin died, he inherited both the title Earl Marshall and the ceremonial role which includes organising the state opening of Parliament.

It was through this position he got to know the Queen more closely.

He said: "She takes a great personal interest in the state opening of Parliament and I think the monarchy under the present Queen is quite superb.

Jubilee relay

"There are people who say she should be more like the Dutch monarchy and be less formal but I think she is totally informal - marvellous."

Margaret Rhodes, the Queen's cousin, said: "She is not what is now called a 'touchy feely' person, she is a self-contained person, but an incredibly unselfish person."

On Wednesday six "community heroes" were also nominated to run across the UK carrying the Queen's jubilee baton containing her message to the nation.

The nationwide relay will involve some 5,000 people, including a 94-year-old newspaper seller and an 11-year-old lifeguard, covering 5,000 miles through 500 towns over 50 days before the Commonwealth Games.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jennie Bond
"The Queen says she doesn't want her jubilee year to be about nostalgia"
Former Royal Press Secretary Dickie Arbiter
"She made a commitment to serve for life"

Remembering the day

Picture gallery
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