Baby George gets orb as pope, queen exchange gifts

The queen presented Francis with a hamper of British produce

Vatican City: Pope Francis gave Britain's baby Prince George a royal orb in lapis lazuli with a silver cross on Thursday when he met the young royal's great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth II for the first time.

The pope presented the British monarch with the blue sphere for Prince William and his wife Catherine's 8-month old baby during an unusual exchange of gifts between the Anglican and Catholic leaders.

"It's for the little boy," Francis said, to which the queen replied: "That's very nice, he will be thrilled by that when he's a little older."

The orb is an emblem of royal power which the ancient Romans used to represent the universe, before it was adapted by Christians who added a cross on top to represent the world under Christianity.

"Sorry to keep you waiting. We were having a very pleasant lunch with the president," the 87-year-old queen told the pope as she arrived around 20 minutes late for their first meeting, after dining with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in Rome.

There was a bit of confusion over protocol, before the queen's husband Prince Philip told the pope: "You go first, you need to show us where to go."

The atmosphere was relatively informal, with a smiling queen dressed in a summery lilac with white gloves rather than the traditional black outfit or veil required of women meeting the pontiff on more formal occasions.

The queen presented Francis with a hamper of British produce grown in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Balmoral Castle, including honey, cider, apple juice, bread, shortbread, eggs and a bottle of whiskey. "I've brought something from all our estates for you personally," the queen said, while the 77-year-old pope looked rather taken aback by the whiskey handed to him by Prince Philip.

He looked better pleased with the honey, which the queen said came "from my own garden."

The queen also presented the Argentine pontiff with photographs of herself and Philip in silver frames -- a traditional gift she herself apologised for, saying: "l am afraid we have to give photographs."

Francis gave the British monarch a copy of a 1679 decree from pope Innocent XI that extends the cult of Saint Edward the Confessor to the Universal Church, in a symbolic sign of the ties between the Anglican and Catholic Churches.

To Prince Philip he gave a set of three medals with the pope's face on in bronze, silver and gold, sparking the notoriously gaffe-prone 92-year-old to quip: "It's the only gold medal I've ever won!"

( Source : AFP )
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