Saturday, December 9, 2023
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Mystery solved

Danica Kirka & Sylvia Hui

LONDON (AP) – Now we know what is in Queen Elizabeth II’s handbag.

The long-time mystery was solved on Saturday when the British monarch made the second star turn of her career, appearing in a mini-movie to kick off a concert celebrating her 70 years on the throne. The sketch featured the queen having a cream tea with British national treasure Paddington Bear at Buckingham Palace.

After drinking the tea and destroying the cakes, the duffle-coat wearing bear from deepest Peru told Elizabeth how he always had a reserve supply of marmalade sandwiches with him, lifting up his red hat to reveal his favourite treat.

“So do I,” the queen responded before opening her bag and declaring, “I keep mine in here.”

The scene recalled the moment Elizabeth appeared as a Bond girl in a short film for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

“Her majesty is well known for her sense of humour, so it should be no surprise that she decided to take part in tonight’s sketch’,’ the palace said. “There was an interest in the filming and animation process and the opportunity to invite a famous bear to tea was just too much fun to miss.”

The queen’s performance with an animated bear drew laughter and loud applause from the overflow crowd at the concert outside Buckingham Palace that was the highlight of the third of four days of festivities celebrating her Platinum Jubilee. The 96-year-old monarch did not attend the concert in person due to what the palace describes as “episodic mobility issues”.

Despite the queen’s absence, spirits were high during an event that culminated with appearances by the monarch’s son and grandson. Prince Charles and his son Prince William paid tribute to the queen in separate speeches that honoured the past and looked to the future.

The crowd watches a film of Queen Elizabeth II having tea with Paddington Bear on a big screen at the Platinum Jubilee concert in front of Buckingham Palace, London. PHOTOS: AP
Prince Charles and Princess Anne
Prince George and Prince William
Crowds watch the Platinum Jubilee concert
An image of Queen Elizabeth II projected onto Buckingham Palace

Anne Middleton, 61, who travelled from Cardiff in Wales for the jubilee celebrations, said she loved the Paddington sketch and the queen’s decision to skip the event didn’t dim the festivities.

“Not for me,” she said, decked out from head to toe in the flags of the United Kingdom (UK) and Wales. “She turned up on the first day, and we know she would have been there if she could have been.”

Charles opened his short speech by addressing the queen as “Your Majesty, mummy”, then paid tribute to her “lifetime of selfless service”.

The queen’s eldest son and heir recalled the ever-growing list of world leaders Elizabeth has met and the endless stacks of state papers she has reviewed during a reign that has now stretched from the early days of the Cold War to the information age. But he also highlighted his mother’s role as a symbol of stability, unifying the UK and the Commonwealth as they negotiated this rapidly changing world.

“You have met us and talked with us. You laugh and cry with us and, most importantly, you have been there for us, for these 70 years,” Charles said as scenes from the queen’s life were projected on the palace walls. “You pledged to serve your whole life – you continue to deliver. That is why we are here. That is what we celebrate tonight.”

William preceded his father with remarks that underscored the queen’s long-time commitment to the environment as he highlighted the need to combat climate change.

The presentation began with a clip of the queen’s 1989 holiday message, in which she called on nations to work together to protect the earth for “our children and our children’s children”.

That message is still relevant today, William said.

“It’s my firm hope that my grandmother’s words are as true in 70 years’ time as they are tonight, that as nations we come together in common cause, because then there is always room for hope.”

The queen has not attended any of the jubilee festivities since Thursday, when she waved to supporters from the balcony on Buckingham Palace. The monarch also decided not to go to the Epsom Derby on Saturday, and was represented at the prestigious annual horse race by her daughter Princess Anne.

The queen, known as a horse lover, has only missed the Epsom Derby a handful of times. On Saturday, five of her former racehorses were paraded, and 40 jockeys who have ridden for the queen formed a guard of honour before the national anthem was played.

“She’s been breeding horses for over 60 years,” one of the jockeys Frankie Dettori told the BBC. “She knows all the bloodlines and she’s won lots of races and she’s very knowledgeable.

“I’m sure today she’ll find a TV and she’s going to watch it live, because she loves the Derby so much,” he added.

It was the second time in as many days that the queen’s mobility issues have robbed crowds of a chance to see her.

On Friday, the queen skipped a special service of Thanksgiving in her honour in London.

Palace officials said she experienced “some discomfort” at events the day before, which included waving to huge crowds from Buckingham Palace.

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan were among nearly 50 members of the royal family who gathered on Friday to honour the absent head of state. It was the couple’s first public appearance in the UK since they stepped back from royal duties and moved to California two years ago.

Apart from attending Friday’s service, the couple has so far stayed out of the limelight. Their two children Archie and Lilibet, who turned one on Saturday, haven’t yet made an appearance during this trip.

A spokesperson for the couple said they were spending the day “privately”, and were not joining some 30 other royals at the Saturday concert.

Meanwhile, members of the royal family travelled to Wales and Northern Ireland as part of celebrations across the UK.

William and his wife Kate brought two of their three children – eight-year-old Prince George and seven-year-old Princess Charlotte – to Cardiff Castle in Wales before a separate concert in the castle grounds in honour of the queen.

The queen’s youngest son Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, visited a 1950s-themed seaside funfair in Belfast.


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