24/11/2016 14:25 GMT | Updated 25/11/2016 04:06 GMT

Earl Tells Award Celebration Church Service Of Participant's Pole Dancing

The Earl of Wessex has told of how he encouraged a Duke of Edinburgh's Award participant to take up pole dancing, during a service of thanksgiving to celebrate the award's diamond anniversary.

Edward, who joined his parents the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh for the celebration at Westminster Abbey, said he was having lunch with a group of Gold Award participants when one girl told him she really wanted to learn pole dancing.

He told the congregation that it "seemed to me at the time, if that's what this young person wanted to do, then why not?"

"So I told her to go for it; isn't that what the Duke of Edinburgh's Award is all about?"

He went on to say that he received a letter some time later from the same girl, who did go on to learn to pole dance, thanking him for inspiring her to "fulfil my goal and to overcome my doubts".

The Earl also praised his father during his address at the 60th anniversary service for his "concern for the welfare of young people and desire to encourage their development".

Philip, who launched the scheme in 1956, inspired by his time at Gordonstoun school, appeared to laugh off the praise as Edward said his father was "probably the most self-effacing and modest person I know".

Edward said: "The few who are gathered here today in this magnificent Abbey represent the millions who want to say thank you; thank you for believing in us, encouraging us and giving us the chance to savour that sense of satisfaction through achievement."

He added that he hoped the Duke felt an "immense sense of satisfaction in how the values instilled by your award are inspiring young people to step forward: prepared to serve, prepared to lead and prepared to make a difference in their communities".

Over the past 60 years, more than 5.6 million young people have started the award which bears the Duke's name, and almost 2.5 million have achieved bronze, silver or gold awards.

In a foreword for the service, the Duke of Edinburgh said: "The growth of the scheme owes everything to the untold numbers of volunteers who have given their time and enthusiasm to bring its benefits to a constantly growing number of young people all over the world."

The Countess of Wessex accompanied her husband to the service wearing an outfit by Bruce Oldfield and a Jane Taylor hat.

During the service impressionist Jon Culshaw gave a reading and Paralympic gold medallist Hannah Cockroft told how the award had given her her "independence" in using a wheelchair.

The Paralympian said the award taught her "not to give up" and encouraged her to reach her potential.

The Queen, who was wearing a purple crepe coat and matching hat by Angela Kelly with an amethyst shield brooch, sat next to the Duke of Edinburgh and listened to the readings and prayers at the Abbey.

Television presenter Phillip Schofield, who was one of those who read a prayer during the service, told the Press Association that he took on the Diamond Challenge because he had not had the opportunity to do the award when he was younger.

He decided to do a wing ride on a biplane and has raised more than £1,000 for the scheme.

He said: "It amazed the Duke no end. He told me I was mad."

The award's anniversary year has been marked with several events including the Countess of Wessex's cycling challenge from Edinburgh to London which saw her raise more than £250,000 for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award.

Speaking at the service on Thursday Peter Westgarth, chief executive of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, said it was "wonderful to have 2,000 of our network of volunteers and young people who have achieved their award here and it's spectacular to have the royal family here".

He said the core of the award was the same as when it was founded and praised the Duke, adding: "There are not many people who can say that they have created something 60 years ago that's rock solid today."