Rain fails to deter crowds for queen
Hundreds of Australians braved the rain for a glimpse of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II Tuesday as she visited the national war memorial in tribute to fallen soldiers and met with veterans.
A crowd of about 1,000 people turned out in dreary weather to see the 85-year-old monarch, cheering loudly as she stepped from her car wearing a cappuccino-coloured coat and matching hat, with Prince Philip by her side.
The queen paused to wave to the crowd before walking inside the stone monument, where she laid a wreath of bright red poppies on the tomb of Australia's Unknown Soldier.
The monarch bowed her head as a military bugler played the Last Post before observing the traditional minute's silence.
As rain began to pelt down outside, the queen and Prince Philip walked along the poppy-lined walls of the memorial where people had placed flowers in honour of fallen Australian soldiers, before signing the visitors book.
She later used a break in the downpour to meet members of the crowd, many of whom had waited hours in the rain to welcome her. She beamed as she accepted scores of posies of flowers and other mementos from children.
"We curtseyed for her and we gave her flowers, it was so exciting," one schoolgirl gushed.
The queen is on a 10-day visit to the former British colony where she is much respected despite the country's occasional moves towards becoming a republic, with thousands turning out to see her engagements so far.
In what some have said could be her last visit to her realm Down Under, the queen has already paid special tribute to Australia's involvement in war, including in the decade-long conflict in Afghanistan.
She met with Australian veterans Tuesday, including some from the central Asian battleground where her grandson Prince Harry has served with British forces.
In an address at Parliament House on Friday, the queen said she shared the grief of the families, friends and colleagues of the 29 Australian soldiers lost in the Afghan war.
The queen, who first travelled to Australia in 1954, charmed Vietnam War veteran Chris Roberts who described her as "a very gracious lady".
"What I was amazed about was she talked to everyone, the young sailors, soldiers and airmen of the force, and every veteran," he told Australian news agency AAP. "She seemed to have an empathy with us."
The monarch, in Australia to open the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth on Friday, is fondly regarded in her former dominion with about 45,000 turning out to see her in flood-hit Queensland state Monday.
Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who met with the queen last week, favours a republic but has suggested that this should not happen during the life of the current monarch.
Welsh-born Gillard has also thrown her support behind British leader David Cameron's plans to scrap the archaic laws of royal succession for the British throne which give the first male heir precedence over any older sisters.
"You would expect me, as the first female prime minister of our nation, to say I believe women are equal to men in all regards," Gillard said.
"And consequently to say that I do support a change to the Act of Succession which would enable the person who succeeds to the throne to be the oldest child, irrespective of gender."
© 2011 AFP