Sylvia Hui & Danica Karka
LONDON (AP) – In a crowning moment for her Platinum Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth II waved at tens of thousands of adoring crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace on Sunday, delighting fans who had hoped to catch a glimpse of her during the final day of festivities marking the monarch’s 70 years on the throne.
The 96-year-old monarch has curtailed her schedule in recent months due to difficulties in moving around. Prior to Sunday, the queen had only appeared in public twice – both on Thursday – during the four-day holiday weekend’s celebrations. Officials said she experienced “discomfort” during those events.
Huge crowds that lined the Mall outside the palace for the climax of a boisterous, colourful pageant cheered as the monarch emerged on the balcony with Prince Charles, his wife Camilla, and Prince William and his family.
It was an image for the history books and a glimpse into the monarchy’s future, with the queen’s three heirs – her 73-year-old son Charles, eldest grandson William and eldest great-grandson Prince George – by her side.
The queen, dressed in bright green, waved and smiled after the crowds belted out God Save The Queen. Her appearance, which only lasted a few minutes, was followed by a crowd-pleasing performance of ABBA’s Dancing Queen.
It was an uplifting finale to a massive street pageant celebrating the queen’s life and highlighting Britain’s diversity. Thousands of people turned out on the streets of London, many speaking with excitement and pride about their queen and country. “We were completely bowled over. We came over all patriotic and excited in a way that we didn’t think we were going to,” said Veronica Timperley, 75, who watched with her daughter Kate.
Afterward, the monarch issued a statement thanking all those who celebrated her Platinum Jubilee.
“When it comes to how to mark seventy years as your Queen, there is no guidebook to follow. It really is a first,” she said. “But I have been humbled and deeply touched that so many people have taken to the streets to celebrate my Platinum Jubilee.
“While I may not have attended every event in person, my heart has been with you all; and I remain committed to serving you to the best of my ability, supported by my family.”
Sunday’s pageant began with a spectacular military parade featuring 200 horses marching down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. They flanked the gold state coach, a gilded carriage that transported the queen to her coronation 69 years ago. A virtual version of her, taken from archival video from her 1953 coronation, was shown at the coach’s windows. After the pomp and pageantry came a melange of acts celebrating the diversity of modern Britain and the Commonwealth, from hip hop and Bollywood dancers to Mardi Gras style floats.
Some 6,000 performers paraded along a three-kilometre route lined with a sea of Union flags, telling the story of the queen’s life with dance, vintage cars, vibrant costumes, carnival music and giant puppets.
Some of Britain’s best-loved cultural exports were here, from the Daleks in Doctor Who to James Bond’s sleek Aston Martins. Celebrities including singer Cliff Richard danced and sang from open-top double decker buses designed to represent the sights and sounds of each decade, beginning with the 1950s.
“It’s a massive honour to be part of this. We’ve got the best queen in the world, don’t we? Best country in the world,” said a biker Warren Jobson, who took part in the parade.
The pageant was watched by an estimated one billion people around the world, organisers said.
The keenest royal fans braved the wet, chilly weather and camped out on the Mall overnight to secure the best view of the pageant. Some came to see the celebrities who performed – like Ed Sheeran, who sang his song Perfect while a huge video screen showed pictures of the queen and her family – while others just wanted to be part of a historical moment.
“It’s part of history, it’s never going to happen again. It’s something special, so if you are going to do it you’ve got to go big or go home,” said Shaun Wallen, 50.
The queen did not join her family in the royal box watching the pageant. Nor did Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, who made their first family trip to the United Kingdom (UK) since they stepped away from royal duties and moved to the United States (US) in 2020.