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The Queen and members of the Royal Family mark Commonwealth Day 2017

Published 13 March 2017

Today The Queen marked Commonwealth Day by launching The Queen's Baton Relay for the XXI Commonwealth Games and attending the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey.

The Queen, who is head of the Commonwealth, was accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh and The Earl of Wessex for this morning's events at Buckingham Palace. The day started with a meeting between The Queen and two Elder representatives from the Yugambeh people, who presented The Queen with a gift.

The Forecourt of Buckingham Palace was decorated with 70 Commonwealth flags to celebrate the start of The Queen's Baton Relay. The Baton will travel through all 52 Commonwealth countries for 388 days covering 230,000 kilometres. It will arrive in time for Opening Ceremony of the XXI Commonwealth Games on 4th April 2018 which is being hosted by the Gold Coast in Australia. The Baton arrived at the Palace in style thanks to Australian Paralympian Kurt Fearnley who carried it down The Mall.

Since the 1958 Cardiff Commonwealth Games The Queen's Baton has carried a message from The Queen calling the Commonwealth's athletes to come together in a peaceful and friendly way. Today The Queen's message was automatically sealed in the Baton which won't be revealed until the Commonwealth Games opening Ceremony next year. The Queen officially started the relay by handing the Baton to Anna Meares, the most decorated female track cyclist of all time.

In further celebration of Commonwealth Day a Commonwealth Day service was held at Westminster Abbey this afternoon. The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry, The Duke of York and The Earl of Wessex all attended.

The Service is the largest annual inter-faith gathering in the United Kingdom which embraces the diversity of the 2.5 billion Commonwealth residents.  Each year the Commonwealth adopts a theme upon which the Commonwealth Service is based. The 2017 theme is 'A Peace-Building Commonwealth', which was echoed in The Queen's annual Commonwealth speech released today.

The Service started with The Queen's Baton being processed through the Abbey by Dame Jessica Ennis Hill. Its next stop will be Sierra Leone. The Service also featured many performances and speeches by a diverse range of Commonwealth members.

Following the procession of 70 Commonwealth flags The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh had the opportunity to meet many of those involved in The Service.  Prince Harry, The Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex all attended a reception where they met many guests which included High Commissioners, Ambassadors, Senior Politicians, faith leaders and 800 school children.