Queen uses walking stick at Westminster Abbey service

The Queen used a walking stick when she attended a Westminster Abbey service marking the centenary of the Royal British Legion.

The 95-year-old was handed the stick after stepping out of her state limousine, and appeared to be moving freely as she walked to her seat for the start of the service.

She used the stick again as she left. It is believed to be the first time she has used a walking aid at a major public event.

Centenary of the Royal British Legion
The Queen is welcomed by the Dean of Westminster (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

The Queen, who is the Royal British Legion’s patron, did not arrive by the traditional Great West Door but via the Poet’s Yard entrance, a shorter route to her seat.

Both developments are understood to have been tailored for the Queen’s comfort.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment.

The Queen was pictured using a stick in 2003, but this was after surgery to remove torn cartilage from her right knee.

The Queen arrives at St Mary’s Church
The Queen used a stick following a knee operation in 2003 (Andrew Parsons/PA)

She left the King Edward VII’s Hospital using a heavy duty one after the operation, and also used a wooden one at a Sandringham church service two weeks later.

A few days later, she used another adjustable stick when she unveiled a set of bronze gates on the Sandringham estate, using it as a means of gesturing during the event.

Adjustments have been made to major events before to help the Queen.

In 2016, she used a lift rather than stairs to enter Parliament for the State Opening.

Queen opens Sandringham gates
The Queen gestures with her stick at Sandringham in 2003 (PA)

Buckingham Palace said the “modest adjustment” to arrangements had been made for “the Queen’s comfort”.

By taking the lift, she avoided the 26 steps of the Royal Staircase at the Sovereign’s Entrance.

She has also not worn the heavy Imperial State Crown since 2016, and it is now placed on a deep red and gold velvet cushion during the proceedings.

In his address, the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend David Hoyle, celebrated the Royal British Legion’s ability to stitch “together our shattered experience” and make us “whole”, and said it has become the bridge between ordinary men and women and those “who have been set apart by serving in the forces”.

Centenary of the Royal British Legion
The Very Reverend David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster, during the Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey to mark the Centenary of the Royal British Legion (Frank Augstein/PA)

He also questioned whether the tendency of crowds to cheer departing troops but be absent when the wounded returned meant “if we will really learn lessons from this pandemic” or give in to the voices “that want to turn the page”.

Retired Lieutenant General James Bashall, the Royal British Legion’s national president, took part in a re-dedication, reaffirming the charity’s commitment to its work, and the Princess Royal gave a reading from the Bible.

The charity was founded on May 15 1921 and brought together four national organisations established to care for military personnel and their families after the First World War.

The physical injuries of the returning servicemen were not the only issues that needed addressing. Some men found it difficult to find work, which left their dependants in need.

The Royal British Legion is also famous for its annual poppy appeal, which encourages public donations in return for the red flower worn in memory of the UK’s war dead.

Centenary of the Royal British Legion
The Princess Royal gave a Bible reading at the service (Frank Augstein/PA)

The Dean told the congregation: “The Legion stands between us and the men and women who have been set apart by serving in the forces. The Legion knows the reality of what that is.

“The Legion remembers truths that some would urge us to forget. The Legion speaks into our silence. The Legion stitches back together our shattered experience and makes us whole.”

He went on: “War poets have observed again and again that we cheer and clap when armies march out. Later, when the wounded are being ferried back, the cheering tends to stop. We want to move on. We always want to move on.

“I do wonder if we will really learn the lessons from this pandemic, or whether we will give in to all the voices that want to turn the page.

“But the Legion always remembers and tells truths we must not forget. The Legion is constant, builds a future out of a past that must not be set aside.”

General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the Defence Staff, and Victoria Cross hero Colour Sergeant Johnson Beharry also gave readings at the service which was attended by members of the military, veterans and their families from the UK and Commonwealth.