The Queen discreetly wipes away a tear as she honours fallen soldiers

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The Queen was visibly overcome with emotion as she unveiled a memorial for Britain's fallen soldiers on Tuesday. Her Majesty, who rarely cries in public, let down her guard momentarily at the engagement in Staffordshire.

The monarch was pictured discreetly wiping a tear from her right eye as she returned to her seat after unveiling the statue.

She also laid a wreath alongside a note that read: "In memory of the glorious dead. Elizabeth R."

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The Queen wiped a tear from her eye after unveiling the war memorial

The Queen was paying tribute to the Duke of Lancaster's regiment at the National Arboretum. A total of 32 members of the regiment have died since it was formed in 2006.

Her Majesty, who is colonel-in-chief of the regiment, was joined by the family and friends of the deceased.

Afterwards the Queen appeared to be in good spirits as she chatted to other guests including war veterans.

She also spoke to stonemason Nick Johnson and sculptor Georgie Welch, the creative hands behind the statue. The bronze "Lion of England" memorial faces north west in tribute to the origins of the regiment who are recruited from Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester.

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The statue pays tribute to 32 fallen soldiers

Of meeting the monarch, Georgie said: "The Queen said it was very lifelike and that it had a real look of power. She also said it looked fearless. I was so nervous I couldn't stop my knees shaking, but the Queen was absolutely charming."

"I don't think you can get any higher honour than to meet the Queen," added Nick.

The monarch's poignant display of emotion surprised royal watchers and fellow onlookers. Her Majesty, 90, has only been pictured crying on a rare number of occasions.

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The Queen famously shed a tear when her yacht Britannia was decommissioned

She most famously shed a tear when her royal yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997. The Queen had fond memories of the vessel, which she and Prince Philip used during royal tours.

Air travel had made the yacht redundant and because it cost £11million to run a year, there was little enthusiasm from the government to replace her.

At the decommissioning ceremony in Portsmouth, Her Majesty wiped a tear from her eye as she was supported by Prince Charles and Prince Philip.