The UK celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with picnics, street parties and concerts on Saturday, although the honoree himself was absent from the festivities, after reporting unwellness on the first day of the four-day vacation.
Britain’s longest-serving monarch made no appearance at any of Saturday’s major events: the Epsom Derby, an annual horse race held in Surrey, and the “Platinum Party at the Palace”, a star-studded concert outside Buckingham Palace featuring Diana Ross, Duran Duran, Alicia Keys and a special appearance recorded by Elton John.
In a moving tribute, Prince Charles praised his mother for uniting the nation and continuing to make history during her 70-year reign.
He spoke at a pop concert which opened with a comedy skit of the 96-year-old monarch having tea with Paddington Bear and tapping the Queen’s anthem ‘We Will Rock You’ on his teacup porcelain.
The heir to the throne appeared towards the end of the concert. As images from the Queen’s reign were displayed on the walls, the 73-year-old prince said the Jubilee had given the country an opportunity to express its gratitude.
“Your Majesty, you have been with us in our difficult times. And you bring us together to celebrate moments of pride, joy and happiness,” Prince Charles told the crowd of 22,000, with millions more on TV.
“You met us and talked to us. You laugh and cry with us and, above all, you have been there for us for these 70 years. You have made a lifelong commitment to service – you continue to deliver. That’s why we’re here,” he added, calling the Queen a “mum.”
Of the two events, the Derby was probably the one the Queen was most disappointed to miss. A keen horse-racer, she has only missed the Derby four times since 1952 – the year she was crowned – and has often entered her own horses in the race. Her daughter, Princess Anne, attended in her place, while the event itself featured 40 jockeys who rode for her, along with several of her former racehorses.
Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee thanksgiving service continues despite monarch stepping down
The 96-year-old Queen was also absent from a special Thanksgiving service on Friday at St Paul’s Cathedral, where the Archbishop of York thanked her for “always in the saddle”. After years of incessant appearances, the monarch’s pace has slowed sharply in recent months due to mobility issues. In May, her heir, Prince Charles, stood in for her to read the Queen’s speech at the opening of Parliament. She’s only missed the speech twice before, both times because she was pregnant.
Across the capital, Union Jack-themed bunting and banners were hung from buildings and streets across London on Saturday, and businesses jumped at the chance to brush up on their branding. Tea company PG Tips added corgis to its tea boxes, while Marks & Spencer sold royal-themed tricks on its popular cakes. Meanwhile, McDonald’s has tweaked its “I love it” brand to say “We love it.” (The Queen, famously, refers to herself as “one”.)
Festivities, too, were not limited to palace-sanctioned events. On Saturday afternoon, The Folly, a bar and restaurant in central London, hosted an edition Jubilee Drag Queen Brunch featuring Drag and West End performers, celebrating the “Queens of Pop”.
To loud cheers, the flag waved and the P!nk song “Get The Party Started” Drag Queen Ruby Murry – AKA Tom Lee – toasted “our queen – and all queens!” Immediately afterwards, a singer sang “Somebody to Love” by, of course, Queen.
Taking a break outside the restaurant between sets, Ruby Murry said she had been booked over the Jubilee weekend, from an event in Brighton on Thursday to a street party in the small town of Mortimer, which has a population of 3,622, on Friday.
“Everyone in town turned out for it,” she said. “It’s probably the most exciting thing to happen to this town in a very long time.”
Although she does not identify as a royalist, Murry said she was inspired by the Queen’s colorful dress sense and expressed admiration for her resilience.
“I can definitely see the Queen specifically as someone who has been stoic and consistent, and consistently on the side of the public,” she said, wearing a sequin dress and white bob wig. “It’s been his role for 70 years.”
Sunday will mark the final day of Jubilee festivities and will include “Grand Jubilee Luncheons” held in communities across the country, as well as a performance which will end outside Buckingham Palace. The contest is set to depict key moments over the past 70 years, as well as appearances from celebrities like Ed Sheeran and a wild selection of floats and puppets, including a massive dragon, a six-metre tall recreation of his wedding cake accompanied by the British South-Asian Dance Company Nutkhut and a pack of puppet corgis.
Ruby Murry will be heading to Liverpool to throw another Jubilee themed party. After that, she said, it would be time for a “royal rest”.
A sideshow to the Jubilee celebrations was Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, who made their first public appearance as a couple in the UK since stepping down from royal duties and moving to the US. On Saturday, the official Twitter accounts of the monarch, Charles and William all sent messages to mark the first birthday of Lilibet, the couple’s daughter who is named after the Queen.
With files from Reuters
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