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Queen Elizabeth II talks of nation's sombre mood in her birthday message

BRITAIN-LONDON-TROOPING THE COLOUR

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip travel in a horse-drawn carriage back to Buckingham Palace after attending Trooping the Colour in London, Britain on June 17, 2017. (Xinhua/Han Yan)

by Larry Neild

LONDON, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Queen Elizabeth II, spoke Saturday of the sombre mood sweeping the nation following the attacks in London and Manchester and the fire that swept this week through Grenfell Tower in west London.

In a message to mark her official birthday, Queen Elizabeth II says: "Today is traditionally a day of celebration. This year, however, it is difficult to escape a very sombre national mood. In recent months, the country has witnessed a succession of terrible tragedies."

The Queen's message continued: "During recent visits in Manchester and London, I have been profoundly struck by the immediate inclination of people throughout the country to offer comfort and support to those in desperate need."

Her message concluded: "Put to the test, the United Kingdom has been resolute in the face of adversity. United in our sadness, we are equally determined, without fear or favour, to support all those rebuilding lives so horribly affected by injury and loss."

The Queen's actual birthday is April 21, but traditionally British monarchs have an official birthday in the summer months when there is a better chance of good weather for birthday events.

The Metropolitan Police in London stepped up security Saturday around Buckingham Palace and Whitehall, with thousands of people heading to the area to watch the traditional birthday celebrations, known as Trooping the Color.

Virtually all members of the British royal family attend the event in what is a major highlight of the royal calendar.

The London Evening Standard reported that extra police would be on duty around the palace to ensure the area is secure following the London and Manchester attacks, with armed police marksmen positioned on nearby roof tops.Plain clothes police officers will also be mingling among the crowds to bolster the uniformed police presence.

The Queen and her grandson Prince William Friday visited the scene of the Grenfell Tower fire to meet survivors and rescuers.

With the official death toll from the fire which swept through the 24-floor residential tower block, remaining at 30, families and friends of at least 70 people still missing desperately awaited news of their fate.

Prime Minister Theresa May woke up Saturday to an onslaught directed at her and the Conservative government in the national media.

May was heavily criticised for visiting Grenfell Tower the day after the fire, but speaking only to fire and police chiefs rather than victims and survivors. She later paid a private visit to one of the London hospitals where some of the rescued are undergoing treatment.

The Daily Mirror's headline "A tale of two leaders" was accompanied by two photographs, one showing Queen Elizabeth II chatting with survivors, the other of May flanked by a ring of police officers away from victims and survivors.

The Times newspaper headline "May takes cover" also used a sub-heading "Police protect PM as Grenfell death toll rises".

The Guardian's front page reported: "Protesters boo PM and march to Downing Street".

The newspapers carried extensive coverage of two separate protest marches through London, one which saw hundreds of people sitting on the ground around one of the capital's best known locations, Trafalgar Square. It brought traffic in central London to a halt.

May's most senior cabinet minister, Damian Green, went onto national radio Saturday to defend the prime minister.

First secretary of state Green described criticisms of May as "terribly unfair", adding: "She's distraught by what happened as we all are. Absolutely, she has the same degree of sympathy and horror at these events that we all have."

May has ordered a public inquiry, to be chaired by a judge, into what is almost certainly the worst fire in London since the World War II, with expectations the final number of dead will exceed 100. She has also ordered 5 million pounds (6.4 million U.S. dollars) to be given to a relief fund to help victims of the fire.

[ Editor: Xueying ]