First and foremost, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee is an unprecedented royal historical commemoration that, given the dramas inside the royal family, is also unavoidably linked to what’s going on inside the royal House of Windsor.
The most emblematic image at the start of the celebration was the appearance Thursday on the balcony of Buckingham Palace of the smiling queen — lauded by The Telegraph as “indomitable” — flanked by her family to watch the military parade known as “Trooping the Colour” and that concluded with a Royal Air Force fly-by.
Those events are highlights of the blockbuster, four-day bank holiday weekend around Great Britain commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s unmatched 70 years on the throne and lasting until Sunday, June 5, with millions of Britons expected to celebrate her reign.
The historic Platinum Jubilee could be the last major public event of the 96-year-old monarch’s long rule.
The balcony as interface between royals and subjects
“The Portland stone platform at the pediment of the palace facing the Mall’s triumphal aisle leading to Trafalgar Square is the interface between royalty and people,” explains Le Point.
That “interface” is where the queen, with the royal family in their finest uniforms, crowns, tiaras, medals, brooches, hats and frocks gather to see and be seen for special events such as coronations, weddings, jubilees and military victories — and where their subjects can catch a rare glimpse of the family as a unit.
This time, though, rather than as a show of unity, the balcony appearance served instead as an account of many who were absent.
If you want to believe the official explanation by the Palace, the iron fist of the queen came down to permit only working members of the royal family and their children to gather on the balcony.
Other, less official royal sources, said that the limited balcony lineup was the result of the longstanding desire by Prince Charles to ‘slim down’ the monarchy.
Still, for some, the reduction in the number of royals on display was a necessity given the family tensions — particularly between Prince Harry and his older brother, Prince William — that could present an awkward situation. Add to that the sexual scandals around Prince Andrew, whose appearance would give way to a public outcry.
Barred, excluded or just withdrawn?
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who have been severely criticized in the country after stepping away from frontline royal duties and moving to California in 2020, traveled to the celebration with their two young children and are joining other events during the long weekend of festivities that include a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral and possibly a second balcony gathering on Sunday.
The latter has not been confirmed.
For Robert Hardman, the monarch’s biographer and author of “Queen of Our Times: The Life of Elizabeth II, “it’s not a case of Andrew or Harry or Meghan being barred from the balcony. They have withdrawn from royal duties, so they’re not part of the operational unit. That’s what it’s all about,” he told the Washington Post.
The changing faces of the monarchy
Queen Elizabeth first appeared on the balcony with her family when she was just nine years old — at her grandfather George V’s Silver Jubilee. At 96, she has waved to her subjects from that balcony on innumerable special occasions.
Her Platinum Jubilee will be her first without her husband, Prince Philip, who died in 2021 at 99, and quite probably will be her last balcony appearance, given her age and frail constitution. That said, she has broken all records of a life dedicated to duty and to her people since becoming queen in 1952 at the age of 25 upon the death of her father.
“Balcony images through the decades chronicle the changing faces of the monarchy, and offer snapshots of many milestones in Elizabeth’s life,” reports the Washington Post. “As a young woman, the princess donned her military uniform and stood alongside Winston Churchill to celebrate the end of World War II in 1945. Eight years later, she wore the Imperial State Crown and regal robes to greet a sea of ecstatic subjects after her own coronation.”
A symbol of what it means to be British
On February 6, 1952, the young Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor acceded to the throne to begin what would become the longest reign in history, spanning two centuries, ensuring a link between generations that recognize her as an enduring symbol of resilience and normality.
“For 70 years The Queen has been the ultimate symbol of what it means to be British,” said Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries. “Her steadfast leadership and unwavering service through good and bad has been an inspiration to so many. With four days of celebrations and millions around the world taking part, this weekend will be a fitting tribute and celebration of her service and dedication to the people of the UK and the Commonwealth.”
For her Platinum Jubilee, the queen was flanked in the balcony by her 73-year-old heir, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, the second in line to the throne, with his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, and their three children, Princess Anne and Prince Edward, along with their spouses, the Duke of Gloucester (cousin to the queen) and his wife, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra.
Fans, lights and parties
Thousands of royal fans packed the Mall to see the trooping the colour parade that kicked off the festivities under radiant sunshine and after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Police had to restrict access to the Mall as thousands pressed against the railings to catch a glimpse of the Queen and the pageantry,” The Guardian reported. “Children climbed on bollards, determined to get a better look, while officers tried in vain to persuade them to get down again.”
The Metropolitan Police tweeted in their account: “The viewing areas in central London for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations are now full. To avoid the disappointment of not being able to enter the viewing areas, please avoid the area.”
Later in the evening, 1,500 beacons were lit across the United Kingdom and in the capital cities of Commonwealth countries, with the queen herself leading the lighting of the principal Jubilee beacon in a special ceremony at Windsor Castle.
The queen’s private estates — including Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle —have also joined in with jubilee themed events.
More than 16,000 street parties around the country are expected to be held over the holiday weekend as schools, businesses and local communities participate in the festivities.
According to the palace, the weekend includes a variety of public events and community activities, as well as “national moments of reflection” on the queen’s seven decades as sovereign.
Thursday, June 2: The queen’s birthday parade, known as Trooping the Colour, was held — an impressive display of military pomp with more than 1,200 officers from the queen’s personal troops, several hundred Army musicians and 240 horses. The procession was joined by members of the royal family on horseback and in carriages and began at Buckingham Palace to go down The Mall.
After that, the queen and members of the royal family made their customary balcony appearance. The event closed with a fly-by over the palace.
Later, 1,500 beacons were set alight across the U.K., Channel Islands, Isle of Man and in U.K. Overseas Territories.
Friday, June 3: The main event is a thanksgiving service paying tribute to the Queen’s lengthy reign at St Paul’s Cathedral, with family members in attendance.
Saturday, June 4: There are two big celebrations — the 243rd edition of the Epsom Downs famous horse race, the Derby, with several royal family members in attendance in the afternoon.
That will be followed by the “Platinum Party At The Palace,” a star-studded concert spread over three stages built in front of Buckingham Palace and the Queen Victoria Memorial, celebrating some of the most significant moments from the queen’s seven-decade reign will take place in the evening.
Queen + Adam Lambert, Alicia Keys and Diana Ross are among the artists set to perform their biggest hits at the show that will be broadcast live by BBC.
“Some 22,000 people will get to watch the concert in person, including 10,000 who won tickets through a public ballot; 5,000 tickets were reserved for key workers,” CNN adds.
Sunday, June 5: To cap the celebrations, there will be street parties as part of the “Big Jubilee Lunch” initiative, a series of community gatherings set to take place across Britain, with flagship events in London and at Cornwall’s Eden Project — where the idea for the lunches originated.
Jubilee Lunches have also been planned from Canada to Brazil to South Africa and Japan.
The weekend’s finale is the Platinum Jubilee Pageant, in which artistic performers, dancers, musicians, military personnel, key workers and volunteers will bring iconic moments from the queen’s reign to life in a festival of creativity. It will start at 2:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. ET)