Queen begins 2018 Commonwealth Games baton relay as Prince Harry attends without Meghan Markle

Lucia Binding
Queen's Baton Rally

Queen Elizabeth II has commenced the countdown to the 2018 Commonwealth Games, launching the baton relay at Buckingham Palace in an eye-catching bright fuchsia outfit.

The 90-year-old monarch was in high spirits as she handed the baton to two-time Olympic champion cyclist Anna Meares today (13 March) as it launched its journey to the host country Australia.

Trending: Broadchurch: DI Hardy and DS Miller uncover chilling truths as they target more rape suspects

The relay kicked off with a ceremony and concert in front of Buckingham Palace before the torch heads off on a 388-day, 230,000 km journey to the Gold Coast carrying a special message from the Queen.

Both the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh watched on as the baton was carried its first few hundred metres by a succession of Olympic athletes with the vibrant flags of the Commonwealth's 52 member states as a backdrop.

Don't miss: Queen begins 2018 Commonwealth Games baton relay as Prince Harry attends without Meghan Markle

Her Majesty and other members of the royal family later marked the Commonwealth Day with a service at Westminster Abbey, which saw Princes Philip, Charles, Harry and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in attendance. British Prime Minister Theresa May was also spotted at the afternoon event.

The Queen wasted no time in changing for the second part of her engagement, opting for a canary yellow coat paired with a matching yellow and black hat featuring a prominent feather.

Most popular: No groom for you: Why Pippa Middleton is blocking Meghan Markle from attending her wedding

Prince Harry was without his Toronto-based girlfriend Meghan Markle at the Westminster Abbey service, but looked cheerful despite reports circulating that she may be blocked from attending Pippa Middleton's wedding this spring due to a "no ring, no bring" policy.

The 32-year-old royal looked dapper in a navy suit teamed with a pale blue tie as his 35-year-old Suits actress beau is filming scenes for the seventh season of the paralegal drama in Canada.

Traditionally, the Queen's Baton Relay is similar to the Olympic Torch Relay and carries a message from the Head of the Commonwealth. It begins at Buckingham Palace in London as part of the city's Commonwealth Day festivities.

The Queen then entrusts the baton to the first relay runner – which was Meares on this occasion – and at the Opening Ceremony of the Games the final relay runner hands the baton back to the Queen or her representative. She then reads out the message aloud to officially open the Games.

During the first part of Monday's event, double Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Victoria Pendleton was the second baton bearer. She collected it from her sporting rival Meares at the palace gates. The pair then walked together around the nearby Queen Victoria memorial.

Australian singer Cody Simpson performed the unofficial anthem I Still Call Australia Home to an invited audience in the palace's forecourt before the Queen's arrival. In awe of the royal setting, Simpson described the palace as "regal, beautiful."

He added: "This is definitely a first for me and one of the more surreal moments of my life thus far, I can say.

"It's a pleasure to be representing the Gold Coast, representing Australia – the Commonwealth Games uniting people through sport and through music today."

theresa may

You may be interested in:

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes