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The Church of England has a "duty" to protect all religious beliefs practised in the UK, the Queen told guests at a multi-faith reception to mark the start of Diamond Jubilee celebrations at Lambeth Palace.

Dressed in a red skirt-suit by Angela Kelly, the Queen attended the event accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh. The event was one of the first public engagements of the Queen to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee year.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, greeted the royal couple before they met representatives of eight non-Christian religions, as well as Christian representatives.

"This gathering is a reminder of how much we owe the nine major religious traditions represented here. They are sources of a rich cultural heritage and have given rise to beautiful sacred objects and holy texts, as we have seen today," the Queen said.

"Here at Lambeth Palace we should remind ourselves of the significant position of the Church of England in our nation's life. The concept of our established church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated," she said.

The Church of England's prime aim is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in the country.