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Last Updated: Monday, 2 June, 2003, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
A low-key return to the abbey
By Ryan Dilley
BBC News Online

Onlookers were modest in number
To mark the 50th anniversary of her Coronation, the Queen returned to Westminster Abbey to renew her vows of office. Compared to the pomp of the original enthronement, this ceremony was a low-key affair, even in the way it was policed.

Many of the guests are cutting it fine. Dark-coloured Rolls-Royces and Mercedes limousines, many flying state flags, jostle to get over to the kerb outside Westminster Abbey to disgorge their loads of dignitaries and diplomats.

But it's not just the great and the good who have minutes to take their seats inside for the anniversary service marking 50 years since the Queen's Coronation.

Ros Deyes and her nine-year-old son Andrew are zig-zagging along the crowded pavement. Aloft she holds the brightly-coloured entry tickets the pair won in a public ballot for seats.

We entered the public ballot for tickets and we won. We're very excited
Ros and Andrew Deyes
"We're thrilled to be here. I'm too young to remember the Coronation, so I'm so glad we were lucky enough to win the tickets to be here for this piece of history."

The entry points for the guests - where red-cloaked ushers check tickets and uniformed police search for weapons - soon become clogged with tourists wondering why they can't visit the famous historic site.

Few of these foreign visitors realise they are about to witness the arrival of the Queen and more than a dozen members of her immediate family. There are few clues that such a major event is in the offing.

On the same pavements where flag-waving crowds stood scores deep for the Queen Mother's funeral and the Golden Jubilee celebrations last year, just a few hundred curious passers-by stop and stand today.

In 1953, all the schools in London were sent two tickets for the Coronation. I won one and had such a lovely view
Pam Martin
Pam Martin is one of the few to make the trip here purposefully to witness the Queen's arrival. As a schoolgirl, she won a grandstand seat along the Coronation route and had to report at 6am with her ticket. "We were right at the front. I'll never forget the colour and pageantry - especially coming soon after the austerity of rationing."

Today, Mrs Martin could have sauntered along just minutes before the service to get a decent view of the abbey door. "I'm surprised it has been kept so low-key. I guess it is because of security fears."

Newspaper reports have indeed suggested that a security operation unrivalled in recent years is under way to protect the Queen and her guests. Some commentators have even raised the spectre that al-Qaeda might use the occasion to attempt a bombing.

One or two armed police officers do indeed waddle past under the weight of bullet-proof vests, but they are massively outnumbered by unarmed colleagues, who in turn are far less common than traffic wardens.

I saw the Coronation on a tiny TV set. I'm honoured to be invited today. It's a great opportunity to remember the dedication the Queen has shown for past 50 years
Indarjit Singh
Suggestions that the rooftops around the abbey would bristle with police sharpshooters now seem exaggerated. TV camera crews and curious office workers peer down from the surrounding balconies and windows, but police officers - let alone marksmen - are nowhere to be seen.

It was also said that the security plan would post plainclothes police among the crowds - the armed operatives keeping an eye out for suspicious characters.

In reality, the crowd is barely sufficient in numbers to give these officers anything to blend into and it offers few suspicious types to tail.

Surprisingly, the roads running beside the abbey have not been closed. This gives anti-EU protesters the chance to pass by in a bus painted with a plea to the Queen to support their cause.

While this well-timed stunt seems to make a mockery of the idea that a tight security cordon is in place around the ceremony, it also forewarns the unfortunate crowd that they may not be in for such a good view after all.

This ceremony really hasn't be advertised. I didn't know there would be so many Royals here
Joan Martin
Soon a procession of double-decker buses, lorries and tourist coaches obscure the view as the royal cars draw up. One coach driver apologises profusely, but says there is no way he can pull his vehicle out of the way, the traffic is too heavy.

Prince Charles and his son William arrive just as the huge white coach moves away. The crowd cheers and camera flashes crackle. Two Union flags are waved. Then the abbey disappears behind a lorry.

The Queen's arrival is just visible, in brief glimpses through the traffic. As the figure in lemon yellow disappears inside the crowd is already melting away. "Well, that's that," says a woman, the sense of anti-climax evident in her voice.





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