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Queen Elizabeth lunches with president before Pope visit

Monarch wears jeweled brooch decorated in diamonds, sapphires

03 April, 14:13
Queen Elizabeth lunches with president before Pope visit (Updates previous) (ANSA) - Rome, April 3 - Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, the duke of Edinburgh, met Italian President Giorgio Napolitano for lunch at the Quirinal palace Thursday before an informal meeting with Pope Francis.

Dressed in a lavender-coloured coat and matching hat decorated with spring flowers, the Commonwealth's queen landed at 12:30 p.m. local time at the Ciampino military airport on the western edge of Rome, where she was greeted by Britain's ambassador Christopher Prentice. She was greeted at the courtyard of the presidential palace on Rome's famed Quirinal Hill, which boasts a view towards her next stop, the Vatican, by an honour guard and a military band that played the national anthems of Britain and Italy.

In an atmosphere described as pleasant, smiles were exchanged amid greetings in the English language, before the group moved on to lunch in the Quirinale's Hall of Bronzino, according to journalists observing the queen's arrival.

Decorating the queen's coat was a large brooch trimmed with gold, sapphire and diamonds, a gift from Mary, the former queen and Elizabeth's grandmother, who bought the piece of jewelry in 1934.

It was presented as a gift to Elizabeth in 1953, the year of her formal coronation which followed her accession to the throne in 1952.

The British flag, the Union Jack, fluttered in the breeze as the president and his wife Clio greeted the visitors from London, who will later travel across Rome to meet with the pope.

Elizabeth, who is also head of the Church of England, is expected to discuss issues around the role of faith in the world during her visit with Francis, Vatican Radio reported earlier in the day.

The 87-year-old queen is coming to Rome after cancelling a March 2013 visit to Rome due to a gastrointestinal illness that required a brief hospitalisation.

She has visited the Italian capital four times during her 62-year reign, the last time 14 years ago when she met former Pope John Paul II at the Vatican; however, this marks her first meeting with Francis.