South West Wales

Swansea parade goes ahead despite Queen's absence through sickness

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Media captionMembers of the battalion marched through the city, before being presented with leeks

A parade in Swansea by 3rd Battalion the Royal Welsh to mark St David's Day has gone ahead despite the absence of the Queen, who had been due to hand out ceremonial leeks to the soldiers.

Buckingham Palace announced on Friday evening that the Queen would not attend because she had gastroenteritis.

Lord Lieutenant of West Glamorgan Byron Lewis took over the ceremonial role.

The battalion's commanding officer said it would have been a first to have been presented leeks by the Queen.

The cancellation by the Queen led to more sparse crowds watching the ceremony than had been anticipated.

Speaking beforehand, commanding officer Rob Manuel said it had been "a bit of a surprise" when the announcement that the Queen would not be attending was made.

'Stepped into the breach'

However, he told BBC News: "We switched to plan B, and our thoughts and wishes are with her and we hope that she makes a speedy recovery.

"The lord lieutenant has stepped into the breach. Today is going to run as per normal.

"It would have certainly been a first for the queen to present leeks to 3rd Battalion, being a reserve battalion, especially for the chaps who have just come back from Afghanistan just before Christmas.

"To have their leeks presented by the commander-in-chief is a really special day and really shows that the nation and the head of state are behind them."

David Phillips, leader of Swansea Council, said: "We fully understand why the Queen was unable to attend the celebrations and our only thoughts are to wish her a speedy recovery.

"We look forward to welcoming the Queen to Swansea in the future."

The parade came a day after 600 soldiers from the Welsh Guards and 200 members of the regimental association received leeks at their barracks in Hounslow, Middlesex, to celebrate St David's Day.

Two-day trip

Image caption The Queen is now spending the weekend at Windsor

The event dates back to 1916 when guardsmen fighting in WWI received leeks on the battlefields at the Somme.

The Queen spent Saturday recovering at Windsor Castle.

Her illness could also affect a planned two-day trip with the Duke of Edinburgh to Rome next weekend. She has been invited by Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano.

A palace spokesman said the visit was still due to take place but a decision will be made later.

On Friday - St David's Day - Prince Charles and and the Duchess of Cornwall visited Cardiff, attending a special service to mark Wales' national day and visiting the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

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