By Gregory Katz
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LONDON _ Queen Elizabeth II honoured fallen soldiers from Britain and the Commonwealth Sunday in a dignified ceremony at the heart of central London.
The 88-year-old monarch placed a poppy-laden wreath at the foot of the Cenotaph, built after World War I to remember those who lost their lives.
Large crowds, including a leather-lunged enthusiast who managed to shout “Hooray” loudly enough to be picked up by national television, thronged the surrounding streets on a cold, clear day in the capital.
The annual ceremony remains a national focal point, much as it was when Elizabeth was a young princess. There is the mournful symphonic music, the march of around 10,000 veterans, and the sense that Britain and much of the Commonwealth has come to a halt to recognize those who have lost their lives in battle.
Prime Minister David Cameron called this year’s event particularly poignant because 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. He also cited the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the conclusion of Britain’s military operations in Afghanistan.
The pageantry harkens back to the days of the British Empire, even as contemporary losses of British personnel in Afghanistan are sadly noted.
Elizabeth, dressed in black, bowed her head after she placed the wreath at the Cenotaph, built after World War I to recognize soldiers killed in action. She spent more than a half hour standing motionless as the ceremony unfolded.
The queen was followed to the Cenotaph by her husband, 93-year-old Prince Philip, who saluted after placing his wreath. The Royal Navy World War II veteran wore a ceremonial uniform. Next came Prince Charles, also a veteran, and Prince William, who served as a military helicopter rescue pilot, and other royals.
William’s pregnant wife Kate and Charles’ wife Camilla watched from a nearby balcony. Both wore black.
Prince Harry, a veteran of Afghanistan combat, paid tribute at Kandahar airfield in that country. He placed a handwritten note on the wreath he placed that said: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. They will never be forgotten. Harry.”
The royals were followed by Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and opposition leader Ed Miliband, whose future as leader of the Labour Party has come under challenge in recent days.
Next came politicians and dignitaries from Commonwealth countries and the Republic of Ireland.
The ceremony took place amid increased security concerns because of recent terrorism-related arrests and a nationwide terror threat assessed to be “severe.”