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Fire casts shadow over UK jubilee

Smoke rises from Buckingham Palace Sunday.
Smoke rises from Buckingham Palace Sunday.  


LONDON, England -- A shadow has been cast over Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee celebrations after a fire broke out at her official London residence Buckingham Palace.

The queen is due to host a series of events on Monday as part of four days of parties and pomp to mark her 50 years on the throne.

But the fire, which broke out in the fourth floor attic of the West Terrace on Sunday, will bring back painful memories of the blaze that devastated part of another royal property, Windsor Castle, in 1992. (Fire at palace)

Celebrations were scheduled to go ahead as planned at the palace Monday night including a firework display due to take place from the palace roof and surrounding sites.

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Smoke rises from Buckingham Palace, fire trucks enter the gates and police push back the crowd gathered for Queen Elizabeth II's Jubilee (June 2)

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The queen will launch a Golden Jubilee Summer Party in Windsor on Monday to kick off a whole series of colourful street scenes across the country.

Monday's festivities will start with a Royal gun salute in Hyde Park and culminate with a pop concert at the palace featuring Sir Paul McCartney, and the lighting of Jubilee beacons around the Commonwealth.

The palace had been evacuated as smoke billowed out of the palace on Sunday, where only 24 hours earlier 12,000 music-lovers had attended a classical concert. (Full story)

No members of the royal family were in residence at the palace at the time. The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, were at Windsor Castle where earlier on Sunday they attended a church service at St George's chapel.

Prince Charles and his two sons William and Harry were in Swansea, Wales, for a church service of thanksgiving.

The church services held across the country on Sunday competed with England's opening game in the World Cup.

Some churches switched the time of their services to allow worshippers to attend both and offered prayers to the queen and the football team. (Match report)

Archbishop George Carey said: "Worship comes first of course, but this (the World Cup) comes round only every four years so we can afford to be flexible."

The atmosphere was in stark contrast to earlier this year when the queen last attended a service at Windsor under the public spotlight to watch the body of her mother and ashes of her sister, Margaret, laid to rest at the chapel.

The two royal deaths had threatened to cast a shadow over the Golden Jubilee celebrations with the queen likely to be in reflective mood during the St George's service but the British public have shown an outpouring of sympathy for the monarch.

During Sunday's service the queen witnessed church leaders signing a covenant expressing their unity in the first agreement of its kind.

The covenant commits each of the four church leaders to pray, work and consult together, and join together to work for justice.

One of the queen's "devoted" sons, Prince Andrew paid tribute to the monarch, saying she was the "nation's embodiment."

The prince, who is in Japan to watch England's opening game against Sweden, told the BBC: "She has a position of, not necessarily awe, but there is a sense of mystery."

He praised her "compassion and understanding for everyone" as well as a "touch that can calm everybody."

The 76-year-old queen had been seen beaming during the Prom at the Palace -- the first time such an event had been held in the grounds of Buckingham Palace.

She later went to the front of the palace with to wave at the 40,000 people who had watched the concert on screens outside.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper published a new poll showing she was the most respected figure in Britain, with half those polled saying they had "strong respect" for her.

Other royals marked the day. The Earl and Countess of Wessex were at Salisbury Cathedral for the Wiltshire Jubilee service and the Princess Royal, accompanied by husband Commodore Timothy Laurence, was in Scotland attending a Jubilee thanksgiving service at Ayr St Columba, Carrick Park, Ayr.

The Duke of Gloucester was at Peterborough Cathedral's Golden Jubilee service while the Duchess of Gloucester was commemorating the jubilee at Liverpool Cathedral.

On the last day of festivities, Tuesday, the queen is to attend a service at St. Paul's Cathedral followed by a vast parade of 20,000 people led by a Hell's Angel's motorbike-rider and including a 5,000-strong gospel choir, the world's largest.

Elizabeth was 25 when she became queen upon the death of her father, George VI, in 1952.