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queen-elizabeth-ii-churchCANBERRA: Hundreds of well-wishers hailed Britain's Queen Elizabeth II at a historic Canberra church Sunday where she attended an intimate service ahead of lunch with local luminaries including Geoffrey Rush.

Decked out in their Sunday best and brandishing flags and flowers, an enthusiastic crowd cheered and clapped as the monarch arrived at St John the Baptist Anglican church with Prince Philip for weekend worship.

The queen, 85, is in Australia for a 10-day tour -- her 16th and possibly last of the vast continent -- which will culminate in her opening the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth on Friday.

She is warmly regarded in Australia, where 75 percent of the then population turned out for a glimpse of her during her maiden visit in 1954, and large crowds have again been a feature of her public appearances on this trip.

Queues began building outside the picturesque sandstone church shortly after sunrise and cheers and applause broke out when the queen emerged from her official vehicle, wearing a primrose-yellow dress and hat with white gloves.

It was the same outfit she wore to Prince William's April wedding to Kate Middleton, save the coat, which was unnecessary in Canberra's unseasonable spring heat.

St John's was consecrated in 1845, some 70 years before Canberra was named Australia's capital, and Sunday was the queen's sixth visit to the lakeside parish, which is regularly attended by ex-prime minister Kevin Rudd.

Now the foreign minister, Rudd and his family were among 100 regular parishioners selected to join the royal couple for the invitation-only service.

"She represents extraordinary continuity for the British people and I think all Australians, whether they are republicans are not, would have a special affection for her," Rudd said after the service.

The monarch delighted the crowds with an unscheduled walk along the barrier to accept dozens of bouquets and gifts from children as she left, eliciting a round of "three cheers".

The queen and Prince Philip returned to Government House after church for a lunch with 50 prominent Australians including Oscar-winning actor Rush and champion paralympian Kurt Fearnley.

Rush won critical acclaim for his role in "The King's Speech," a film about the queen's father King George VI and the Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, who helped him overcome a stammer.

Colin Firth won an Academy award for his portrayal of the king, while Rush was nominated for his performance as Logue.

The group were to dine on Australian ocean trout and fillet of beef, native leatherwood honey pannacotta with wild berries and a selection of wines from top national vineyards.

Sunday's church service was one of the queen's last public appearances in Canberra, where she will lay a wreath at a war memorial on Tuesday.

She will fly to Brisbane for a day trip Monday to meet with victims of this year's devastating floods and will be in Melbourne on Wednesday for official engagements before travelling to Perth Thursday for the Commonwealth summit.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2011


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