Cheering crowds greet queen in Melbourne

26th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II rode a royal-themed commemorative tram and met massive, adoring crowds as she walked a red carpet through Melbourne's Federation Square on Wednesday.

The monarch, 85, also met "miracle" Bangladeshi twins Trishna and Krishna as she opened the revamped Royal Children's Hospital, where the formerly conjoined twins were separated in marathon surgery in December 2009.

Wearing a silk dress with pink oriental blossoms and a matching coat and hat of a shade described by commentators as "shocking pink", the queen touched down for a day visit to the southern city in a private air force jet.

She toured the hospital before a formal re-dedication ceremony where she was warmly applauded and met Trishna and Krishna, 4, rescued by Australian charity workers from a Dhaka orphanage and one of the hospital's great success stories.

Staff wearing pink surgical scrubs did a collective curtsey as she passed, and she was presented with a book of drawings by young patients.

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said it was a great honour to receive the queen in his state, which "proudly bears the name of Her Majesty's most distinguished great-great-grandmother."

"This institution proudly bears the title so generously bestowed upon it by Her Majesty nearly 60 years ago," Baillieu said of the hospital, first opened by the queen, its patron, in February 1963.

The queen then made her way to Federation Square, the city's central plaza, where thousands gathered to see her walk the red carpet and her aides struggled under the weight of massive floral tributes and gifts.

Fans treated her to impromptu rounds of "God Save the Queen" and held signs aloft declaring "Australia Loves Our Queen", in scenes akin to the rock-star reception for US talkshow queen Oprah Winfrey in the city last December.

Some said they had travelled from as far afield as Sydney, more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) away, for a glimpse of the popular royal.

Several protesters were arrested and some in the crowd held a banner condemning the country's pollution tax and calling on the queen to dissolve the country's minority coalition government, but things were peaceful.

Demonstrators who had, until late last week, been camped in the city as part of the global "Occupy" movement, voted not to disrupt the visit.

The 10,000 capacity square was jam-packed and many more lined the streets to watch the queen's tram ride to Government House, where she was to attend a luncheon. Trams are an icon of the southern city, Australia's second-biggest.

Specially refurbished and painted in blue, white and red for the occasion, the 31-year-old tram was flanked by guards on horseback and displayed "Royal Tram" as its route.

Even the tracks had been polished in readiness for the trip, and driver Joyleen Smith said she'd been sworn to secrecy about her royal duties, even from her family.

The queen is nearing the end of a 10-day tour of Australia -- her 16th of her antipodean realm -- which has taken in Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane and will conclude in Perth, where she is due to open a Commonwealth summit.

She is warmly regarded in Australia, where some 75 percent of the population turned out for her maiden 1954 trip, and has again been greeted with huge crowds wherever she goes.

© 2011 AFP

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