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Watch out for those cobblestones on Coronation Street, Your Majesty!
Three months after husband Prince Philip's death, Queen Elizabeth II has returned to public appearances with beaming smiles, taking a stroll down the set of "Coronation Street" in Manchester Thursday to mark the world's longest-running drama series' 60th birthday.
Then she went to church at Manchester Cathedral to unveil a plaque and to meet people from across northwest England who helped support their community during the last 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dressed in a standout teal coat-and-hat outfit, the queen looked delighted as she met with veteran members of the cast and crew, walked along the famous cobbled Coronation Street (a reference to her 1953 crowning), and visited the studio where the interior of the Rovers Return pub is filmed.
According to the Associated Press and The Guardian, actress Kate Spencer, who plays Grace Vickers, warned the queen the set's cobblestones were hard to walk on in heels, although some of the women the queen met wore very high heels anyway, judging from pictures.
Looking down at her own sensible shoes, the queen replied: “No, I know. I’ve been told. Probably better not.” Organizers rolled out a red carpet for the 95-year-old monarch to walk on.
The queen also popped into the set's pub during the 40-minute visit, her second to the "Coronation Street" set; the first time was in the early 1980s at the show's original studios in Manchester.
She told the cast it was “really marvelous you've been able to carry on" during the pandemic as she took time to chat to backstage staff including writers, camera operators, set designers and sound engineers.
“Ma’am, you’re the one that’s carried on,” replied actor William Roache, who holds the record as the world’s longest-serving soap star, having played the role of Ken Barlow since the first episode.
The show's 60th birthday was in December last year when England was locked down due to the pandemic, according to Buckingham Palace, so this was a delayed royal visit. Britain will celebrate the queen's Platinum Jubilee marking her 70th year on her throne next year.
The people the queen met seemed just as delighted to see her. Roache said the royal visit was a “wonderful bit of icing on the cake.”
“She just smiles. She listens, she always has and she loves to be made to laugh,” Roache said. “I’ve been lucky to meet her quite a few times and she’s always charming, and a laugh is never far away."
The show, which focuses on the everyday lives of ordinary residents of the fictional northern English town of Weatherfield, is Britain's most beloved soap opera series, with a huge fan base built up over 60 years.
"More than 10,000 episodes later, the program has seen 57 births, 146 deaths and 131 weddings," the palace statement on the visit recounted. "'Coronation Street' transmits six episodes a week, filming the equivalent of almost two feature films every week, and is broadcast in 105 countries around the world."
But the queen admitted she doesn't always have time to watch. Talking to cast members, she confessed she was not familiar with all the characters and plotlines.
“I have not been able to see it all the time. Are you all nice?” she asked one group of actors.
The set visit was the most recent appearance of the queen in public since the death of her husband of 73 years, and since the cautious lifting of some pandemic restrictions in the United Kingdom.
In recent weeks, she has been seen carrying out engagements in Scotland during annual Royal Week, and hosting (with other senior members of the royal family) world leaders, including President Joe Biden, at a Group of Seven summit in Cornwall in southwestern England.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Queen Elizabeth strolls cobblestones on 'Coronation Street' set visit