Queen Elizabeth II makes rare NY visit

6th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II was due Tuesday for a rare, whirlwind trip to a sweltering New York where she was to address the UN General Assembly and pay homage at Ground Zero.

The one-day trip was only the third visit to the Big Apple in Elizabeth II's 58-year reign.

The 84-year-old monarch last came to New York in 1976 and her UN appearance will be the first since she spoke there in 1957, a mere four years after being crowned.

Arriving from a nine-day trip to Canada, the queen and her husband Prince Philip were planning the briefest of stops in New York, where temperatures were expected to hit 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) at the start of a week-long heat wave.

The queen was to first address the General Assembly, then meet privately with members of the Security Council, as well as UN diplomats.

The queen was scheduled to lay a wreath at the site of the former World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Then she was to meet with relatives of victims, as well as representatives of the police and fire crews who responded to the attack in which Islamist hijackers flew two airliners into the Twin Towers, killing almost 3,000 people.

Before flying back to London, Elizabeth II was also formally to open Manhattan's British Memorial Garden at Hanover Square, dedicated to the 67 British victims of 9/11.

New York is used to celebrities and heads of state, but the queen's visit caught the local media's attention, with the Daily News tabloid publishing tips on etiquette for readers.

They were instructed not to bow if they meet the queen, since they are not subjects, but neither to try offering her a New York-style "fistbump or high-five."

Readers were also advised to steer clear in conversation from mentions of Sarah Ferguson, the former wife of Prince Andrew who was caught attempting to sell access to her ex-husband in a media sting in May, then admitting that she was suffering from money and drink problems.

"Chat instead about dogs and horses; the queen likes them," the News suggested.

Commuter freesheet AM New York, meanwhile, warned the monarch might not like New York's currently fierce temperatures. "God Save the Queen (and us!)" the front page joked. "Her Majesty visits Baked Apple."

The royal couple's Canada trip took them to a horse race, a visit to the factory making BlackBerry smart phones and Canada Day celebrations.

There was drama on Monday when a power outage plunged Toronto into chaos just ahead of a state dinner. Thousands of people were stranded in office buildings or stuck on roads snarled by the sudden absence of traffic lights.

The British head of state's tour comes at a time when Buckingham Palace is feeling some of the same budget crunch pressuring the rest of the country.

Britain's finance minister George Osborne announced a shake-up in royal funding in June.

He also said that the 7.9 million pounds (9.5 million euros, 11.6 million dollars) royal operating budget will remain frozen, as it has been for the last 20 years, despite media reports that royal officials are requesting an increase.

© 2010 AFP

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