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The Duchess of Cornwall attends a World War One candlelight vigil at Westminster Abbey

4th August 2014

The Duchess of Cornwall puts out the final candle during a World War One service at Westminster Abbey

The Duchess of Cornwall puts out the final candle during a World War One service at Westminster Abbey

The Duchess of Cornwall represented Her Majesty The Queen at a solemn service commemorating the First World War at Westminster Abbey this evening.

The service included the gradual extinguishing of candles, with an oil lamp snuffed out at the grave of the unknown warrior at 11pm - the exact hour war was declared.

In the same hour, the nation had been urged to switch off lights in places of worship, public buildings, workplaces and homes, and leave one light burning as a symbol of hope in darkness.

The project was a reference to then-foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey's famous remark on the eve of the outbreak of war, when he said: "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

In a foreword to the service, the Dean of Westminster Abbey, the Very Rev Dr John Hall, said it aimed to focus attention on the last moment of peace before Britain declared war on Germany.

The Duchess of Cornwall holds a candle during a World War One service at Westminster Abbey

The Duchess of Cornwall holds a candle during a World War One service at Westminster Abbey

He wrote: "The bloody conflagration lay ahead; tonight we catch glimpses of people's anticipation of what was to come.

"But we also have an opportunity to reflect on the attitudes of those preparing for war: some, frankly, relished the prospect; others dreaded it.

"Most were stumbling into the darkness, increasingly bound by the chains of their own and others' making, their hope of avoiding war ever fading."

The Duchess, along with the remainder of the 1,700-strong congregation, carried a burning candle.

Actor David Morrissey read from war poet Wilfred Owen, and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon gave a reading from the Bible, from Joel 2.

Able Seaman Kam Clarke extinguished the first candle, followed by all those seated in the North Transept, then actor Rachel Stirling read On Receiving News Of The War by Isaac Rosenberg.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, said a prayer, and as candles in the historic Abbey continued to be extinguished, there were readings from actors Dame Penelope Keith, Pippa Bennett-Warner and Mark Gatiss.

Sebastian Faulks read from his celebrated book Birdsong, then The Duchess moved to near the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.

Guardsmen representing the four nations of the United Kingdom stood at the four corners of the grave, and The Duchess extinguished the remaining flame.

Rachael Stirling read TS Eliot's line from Little Gidding: "The end is where we start from."

Others attending included London mayor Boris Johnson.