Archbishop of Canterbury praises Queen for 60 years of 'utter self-sacrifice'

The Queen entering Westminster Abbey with Dean John Hall(PA)

The Archbishop of Canterbury has thanked the Queen for her commitment during the six decades of her reign.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby delivered the sermon at a service in Westminster Abbey today to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation.

The Queen was accompanied by members of the royal family, including the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

In his sermon, the Archbishop said the Queen's coronation in the abbey in 1953 and her public service since then have symbolised "the very nature of being British".

Inviting the congregation to put aside the splendour of the spectacle for one moment, the Archbishop reflected on the moment she knelt before the altar 60 years ago and offered a silent prayer to God.

"Her Majesty knelt at the beginning of a path of demanding devotion and utter self-sacrifice, a path she did not choose, yet to which she was called by God. Today we celebrate sixty years since that moment, sixty years of commitment," he said.

The Archbishop went on to speak of the Queen's pledge of allegiance to God as being symbolic of the model of liberty and authority enjoyed in Britain today.

"Liberty is only real when it exists under authority. Liberty under authority begins, as the Book of Common Prayer puts it, with our duty to God, 'whose service is perfect freedom'," he said.

"We live in a hierarchy of liberty under authority that ascends to God's limitless love. As we see in the life of Jesus, with God justice and mercy are perfectly joined, wisdom is unlimited, generosity is unstinting, and love pours out to the whole world in an overwhelming embrace that is offered universally and abundantly.

"A nation that crowns its head of state with such a model of liberty under authority expresses commitment to the same glorious values for itself."

He encouraged others to find the joy that comes from obeying God and serving him wherever they are.

"In those moments of prayer are symbolised the basis for the greatness of this country. In their silence lies God's call. In their humility lies God's authority. In their resulting service lies God's perfect freedom. What follows is the joy of security that comes from obeying God alone," he said.

"Such consecration to God is followed by a crown. When we obey God's call, whoever we are, leading Government or quietly serving our local community, we establish a country that is open-handed and open-hearted, serving others with joy."

He went on to say that beyond all the pomp and circumstance of such occasions there was "radical commitment, single-minded devotion and servant leadership".

"And for that we give thanks today," he said.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, led prayers for the Queen and gave thanks for 60 years of duty "done with a glad heart".

"Sixty years ago, in this holy place, Queen Elizabeth II was anointed with holy oil, clothed with sacred garments, and, after receiving symbols of authority, crowned with the Crown of St Edward, King and Confessor, just as Her Majesty's royal predecessors from 1066.

"Here today we gather to give thanks to almighty God for the faithful ministry and dutiful service the Queen continues to offer God and the people of this nation, the overseas territories and the realms, and as head of the Commonwealth," he said.

Queen Elizabeth II was 27-years-old when she was crowned in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953.

Members of the congregation included some of the choristers who had sung on that day.

The congregation of some 2,000 guests joined together in singing hymns and the national anthem.

Prime Minister David Cameron gave a reading from the Book of Kings.