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The Queen today paid tribute to the "indomitable spirit" of the people of Wales as she opened Senedd in Cardiff on her first visit to the country in five years.
Dressed head to toe in pink and again carrying a walking stick, Her Majesty, 95, arrived in the city accompanied by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, accompanied by a 21-gun salute.
In a short speech as she officially opened the sixth term of the Senedd, the Queen said it was “a source of pleasure” that both Prince Charles and Camilla as well as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have had homes in Wales, allowing them to “experience its very special sense of community.”
The Queen also commended the Welsh for their “innovation”, noting that the Senedd was the first of the UK’s legislatures to hold a formal virtual meeting.
The monarch used the telescopic walking stick on Tuesday, the first time she had been seen with it in public in 17 years, and marking one of her first concessions to comfort in older age.
It is the same as the stick she used in 2004, after an operation to remove torn cartilage from her right knee, but appeared noticeably more battered, raising the possibility that it has been used in private since then.
The sovereign took a lift up to the entrance to the Welsh parliament, while Prince Charles and Camilla took the stairs.
But she appeared on good form, laughing, smiling and even cracking jokes as she met dignitaries and “community champions” who have gone above and beyond over the last 18 months.
Unlike the rest of the royal party and others in the building, she did not wear a mask.
Debt of gratitude
Addressing the Senedd’s opening ceremony, Her Majesty said: “I have spoken before about how recent times have, in many ways, brought us closer together.
“We all owe a debt of gratitude to those who have risen so magnificently to the challenges of the last 18 months - from key workers to volunteers, who have done so much to serve their communities. They are shining examples of the spirit for which the Welsh people are so renowned, a spirit which I have personally encountered so many times.
“The fact that all parties showed a determination that you should continue to meet is commendable, and testament to your commitment to scrutinise the Government, on behalf of the people of Wales.”
The Queen added: “The Welsh people have much to be proud of and over the next five years, I am sure you will continue to be inspired by their indomitable spirit, as you represent the interests of Wales and its people, make laws for Wales, and hold the Welsh Government to account.”
'diolch o galon'
She signed off her speech in Welsh with "diolch o galon", which roughly translates as "thank you from the bottom of my heart".
The service will also include a poetry reading by Eleri Griffiths and Oliver Edwards Davies of the Welsh Youth Parliament.
They will read Ein Llais, written by children from 24 primary schools about their hopes for the future.
A family from Afghanistan, which has started a new life in Wales after fleeing the Taliban, is later expected to meet Prince Charles.
Prince Charles and the Duchess arrived first to a Royal Salute and a Guard of Honour, formed by the Royal Navy with the Band of the Royal Marines, chatting to flag-waving schoolchildren along the red carpet.
“Have you been allowed off school for this? I do hope your teacher won’t be annoyed,” the Prince said.
The Duchess, wearing a red Fiona Clare coat dress, with a leek brooch, had another issue on her mind. “When are you going to stop wearing masks?” she enquired of the welcoming party.
A few minutes later the Queen, who had travelled on the Royal Train, arrived to the sound of both the Welsh and British National Anthems.
She was greeted warmly by her son and daughter-in-law, asking if they had flown up.
The monarch was met by the First Minister of Wales and the Llywydd of the Senedd, before walking through the Neuadd to the sounds of a musical performance by the Welsh National Youth Opera.