LONDON, June 5 — Four days of celebrations in which millions have turned out to mark Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne reach a finale today with a service at St Paul’s Cathedral, a procession through London and a wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
For once, the 86-year-old British monarch will not be accompanied to a grand state occasion by her husband of 64 years, Prince Philip, who was taken to hospital yesterday with a bladder infection as her Diamond Jubilee drew to a close.
The 90-year-old royal consort will be kept under observation for a few days in a move the palace said was “precautionary”, but it takes some of the gloss of what is widely seen as a triumphant jubilee that has cemented the queen’s popularity.
A million people gathered for a spectacular 1,000-vessel pageant on the River Thames on Sunday and hundreds of thousands more packed the wide, red road leading to Buckingham Palace yesterday for a concert featuring Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.
Millions more attended street parties up and down the country despite generally inclement weather, and massing crowds once again began turning the famous Mall avenue towards Buckingham Palace into a sea of red, white and blue for the culmination of celebrations.
In a tribute to his mother delivered from a concert stage surrounding a statue of Queen Victoria the only other British monarch to have reigned for 60 years, heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles sought to sum up affection for a monarch who is a symbol of stability amid economic gloom and political disillusionment.
“As a nation this is our opportunity to thank you and my father for always being there for us, for inspiring us with your selfless duty and service and for making us proud to be British, proud at a time when I know how many of our fellow countrymen are suffering such hardship and difficulties.”
Elizabeth herself, who usually only appears on TV screens for a short message on Christmas Day, will deliver a special broadcast be aired at 1700 GMT to thank the nation.
Pomp and pageantry
After the celebrity glitz of the pop concert, today’s events were more typical of the formal displays of ceremony for which British royalty is known across the globe.
They began with the queen, head of state of 16 countries, attending a thanksgiving service in her honour at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral along with senior members of the royal family.
Crowds lining the route to St Paul’s greeted Elizabeth II’s car as it passed with shouts of “God save the Queen”.
She arrived at the Christopher Wren-designed church in a fine silk tulle outfit, embroidered with tiny mint green star-shaped flowers embellished with silver thread and passed up the aisle past bowing and curtsying members of the congregation.
The spiritual leader of the Anglican church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was to deliver the sermon while Prime Minister David Cameron gave a reading to pay tribute to the queen who came to the throne aged 25 in 1952.
Afterwards the royals will attend receptions at two of the City of London’s grandest buildings, Mansion House and the Guildhall, before a diamond jubilee lunch at Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament.
With Philip absent, the queen will lead a horse-drawn carriage procession back to Buckingham Palace in a 1902 State Landau with Charles and his wife Camilla as military bands play and a 60-gun salute is fired.
Charles’s sons Prince Harry and Prince William with his wife Kate, again dressed in Alexander McQueen, will follow behind in other carriages.
Success and popularity
The jubilee celebrations end with the entire royal family making an appearance on the balcony of the palace, with a fly-past by modern and former Royal Air Force aircraft.
So far, the long weekend dedicated to the diamond jubilee has been a success story for the monarchy, their media team and Elizabeth personally.
Polls suggest the crown and the queen herself are more popular than they have been for decades, with one suggesting the hereditary monarch was considered far less out of touch with her people than Cameron and his ministers.
Meanwhile the younger generation of royals, especially William, Harry and Kate, have become the darlings of the British press, once notoriously hostile to the monarchy as it threatened to implode in the 1990s following marital infidelities and the death of Charles’s hugely popular first wife, Princess Diana.
Republicans have been vocal in their opposition during the jubilee but have drawn few obvious signs of public backing, although they hope that apathy to the royals felt by some could turn to hostility when the queen is gone and the less popular Charles becomes king.
If nothing else, commentators said the royals had once again provided Britons, suffering through deep public spending cuts and rising unemployment, with an excuse for a party.
“With the economy and one thing or another, this has just been the most fantastic celebration,” said designer Sheree Charalampous, 53, who had made her own crown, strung with pearls, pictures of corgis and a portrait of the queen.
“I really think the monarchy is now back in favour again, which is wonderful. Nobody does this sort of thing like us. It has been an amazing four days, just fantastic.” — Reuters