A fanfare of trumpets and cheering crowds greeted Queen Elizabeth today to celebrate the 60th anniversary of her coronation with a service at Westminster Abbey featuring a priceless crown that has adorned the heads of British monarchs for 350 years.

Decorated with rubies, sapphires and amethysts, the golden St. Edward’s crown was made for the coronation of Charles II in 1661, and has been used to crown many British monarchs since. Tuesday marked the first time it has left the Tower of London since the 1953 coronation.

About 2,000 people gathered at the abbey in London on Tuesday morning to celebrate, with more outside.

Among those in attendance were 20 members of the Royal Family, the CBC's Ann MacMillan reported, clearly accenting the monarchy's future in the U.K.

They included Prince Charles and Camilla, who have taken on a greater role in recent years, and Charles's son Prince William and his wife Kate, who are expecting their first child in July.

"The Queen seems to be beginning to hand over some of her duties," MacMillan said.

There is no suggestion that Queen Elizabeth will ever step down, however, as some European monarchs have done.

"She'll never abdicate. She's made that clear. She's talked always about her duty."

Elizabeth, now 87, was crowned in the abbey on June 2, 1953, in a ceremony rich with more than 1,000 years of tradition.

Tuesday's anniversary service featured hymns, prayers, a reading from Prime Minister David Cameron and a poem written for the occasion by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy. Some of the music selections were the same as those performed at the original coronation.

The Queen's 91-year-old husband, Prince Philip, missed a reception event Monday night, but was at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday. 

Buckingham Palace officials said Philip was "unwell," but did not elaborate on his health problem. The prince had been scheduled to join the Queen at the reception at St. James's Palace that featured performances by opera group Il Divo.

Two Canadian women from southern Ontario who planned their vacation to the U.K. around the 60th-anniversary celebration were clearly delighted to be there.

"I think it’s very significant — and who knows how much longer the Queen will be around — so this might be the last glimpse we ever have of her," said Pat Weir. "I just wanted to take that in. And [it's] just very, very special."


Canadians Pat Weir, right, and Janet Wilkins perch outside Westminster Abbey waiting to see the queen Tuesday. They planned their holiday to the U.K. around the coronation anniversary. (CBC)

Andrew Pierce, an editor at London's Daily Mail who comments on royalty for CBC News, said Tuesday that the Queen has had a hugely successful diamond jubilee year.

"The Queen does not do superlatives, and nor do her courtiers, but they say they could not be more content," he told the CBC's Heather Hiscox. "It has highlighted the royalty as part of life in the Commonwealth."

At the same time, the growing role of Prince Charles and Camilla has allowed Queen Elizabeth to ease up a little.


Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip wave to the crowds from their limousine on the way to Westminster Abbey Tuesday morning. (Nahlah Ayed/CBC)

"Prince Charles [is]

doing more and more …. That was the first time we saw Camilla at his side at the state opening of Parliament. And the Queen would always announce her overseas royal trips at the end of that speech — none were announced. Are there to be no more? And if she is not to do them, will Charles and Camilla take on more of the onerous work?"

As well, with the prince wanting Camilla to be queen when he assumes the throne, Pierce said, "the palace will roll her out more and more, so that the public comes to terms with her being Queen Camilla."

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press