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1954: Queen returns after lengthy voyage
The Royal Family has returned safely from their six-month tour of the Commonwealth to a rapturous welcome in London.

Thousands flocked to the banks of the River Thames to see the Royal Yacht Britannia bringing the Queen home.

Ships' sirens and factory hooters welcomed the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and their two children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. They spent most of the journey on the ship's saluting platform to wave at the crowd and take photographs.

Churchill on board

They were joined by the Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, who stayed on the yacht last night at the Queen's invitation, after boarding at Yarmouth, on the Isle of Wight.

A huge red-and-white banner was hung from Tower Bridge bearing the words, "Welcome Home".

The twin arms of the bridge opened to their fullest extent to let the yacht through, as well as its escort, and countless small boats full of well-wishers sailing in for a closer look.

Once the Britannia had moored, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret joined the royal party on board the yacht's barge for their onward journey to Westminster.

As they left, there was a thundering 41-gun salute from the Tower of London.

Health concerns

The banks of the Thames at Westminster were again packed with a cheering, whistling crowd as the Royal Family at last disembarked onto dry land.

It was the first close-up glimpse many had had of the Queen since concerns over her health at the end of her strenuous tour. She seemed well and cheerful, but had lost some weight.

The Royal Family continued to Buckingham Palace in three carriages, through streets lined with cheering, flag-waving people, some of whom had waited all night to see the Queen and her family pass by.

Even when the Queen arrived at Buckingham Palace, no sooner had the door closed behind her than the cry began to go up: "We want the Queen!"

Within ten minutes, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, with their two children, appeared on the balcony to roars of approval from the crowd. It was the first of four appearances, the last at nearly 2300 BST (2200 GMT).

Even then, the crowd was persuaded to leave only when the lamps floodlighting the palace were switched off.

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The royal yacht Britannia at London Bridge
Thousands watched Britannia sail down the Thames



In Context
The young Queen's first Commonwealth tour was a gruelling journey lasting almost six months and covering 43,618 miles by air, sea and land.

She visited many countries which had never before seen their ruling monarch. She made her Christmas broadcast for 1953 live from New Zealand.

The tour was the first undertaken by the Royal Yacht Britannia, which the Queen had launched herself in 1953.

The yacht travelled for more than a million miles on Royal and official duties over 44 years before it was decommissioned in December 1997.

The Labour Party had made it part of their general election manifesto earlier that year not to replace the Britannia as a cost-cutting measure, and the Queen no longer has use of a royal yacht.

The Britannia is now berthed in Edinburgh, where it opened in October 1998 as a star tourist attraction. It is visited by about 275,000 people from the UK and overseas each year.

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