London is sprucing up and getting festooned in preparation for what’s expected to be an unforgettable celebration that the country has never seen before:
The Platinum Jubilee celebrating the remarkable 70-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II who, at 96 years old, has broken all records of a life dedicated to duty and to her people since solemnly taking her oath at the age of 21 upon the death of her beloved father.
After seven decades of rule, surrounded by pomp, glamour, intrigue — and an intimately-chronicled dysfunctional family — the queen seems still firmly attached to her role as an anchor for the British people despite the vagaries and turmoils of life and history and her frail constitution.
The longest reign in history
On February 6, 1952, the young Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor acceded to the throne to precede the longest reign in history, spanning two centuries, ensuring a link between generations that recognize her as an enduring symbol of resilience, permanence and, paradoxically, of normality.
“Under the gold and the pomp, behind the palaces, the brooches, tiaras and the hats, everyone feels that Elizabeth Regina is a woman almost like the others, loving country life more than anything, with her old scarves, her dogs and her family, even if a little dysfunctional,” observes Le Point. “Like everyone else, she has faced ups and downs, joys and dramas, approaching the vicissitudes with exemplary self-control.”
Her Platinum Jubilee celebrations will be, if she can make it given her frailty, her last big show of pomp, pageantry, lavishness and ceremony.
“On 6th February this year Her Majesty The Queen became the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth,” says the official Royal Family site.
“To celebrate this unprecedented anniversary, events and initiatives will take place throughout the year, culminating in a four day UK bank holiday weekend from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th June.”
Will she be there or will she not?
The nonagenarian monarch has mobility problems and for the last months has been canceling most of her once-usual public appearances at prominent events. Last October, she spent a night in hospital and since then has been “under doctors orders,” walking with a cane and performing light duties only.
Most recently and for the first time in 59 years, she canceled her appearance at the State Opening of Parliament. In her place, her heir, Prince Charles, read her speech, accompanied by his eldest son and heir, Prince William, who had never before attended the event.
Royal aides insist that despite what they describe as”episodic mobility issues,” the monarch is in good spirits and very much in charge behind the scenes and expected to be part of the most important Jubilee events, including a service of Thanksgiving and her traditional appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony for the Trooping the Colour.
It’s unlikely though, that she will attend other events as palace aides say she has “good and less good days.”
The Meghan and Harry problem
Other than her fragility, there are issues overshadowing the Platinum Jubilee’s celebrations. The House of Windsor over which she presides roils in turmoil, with a number of personal dramas occurring among the closest family members.
One of them is what journalist Tina Brown, in an interviews with ‘60 Minutes’ about her new book “The Palace Papers,” calls a “destructive, explosive, volatile” situation with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The couple have announced that they, with their two children, will travel from their California home to London for the celebrations — although they have been banned from appearing on the Buckingham Palace balcony with the rest of the family.
During the balcony appearance, regarded as the centerpiece of major royal occasions including Trooping the Colour and weddings, the queen’s extended family gathers to watch a Royal Air Force flypast and is a rare chance for fans to see the entire extended family together.
“The fear in the family is that Harry and Meghan will continue to provoke chaos,” Brown said.
Then, there is Prince Andrew
Following his ejection from public life after settling a civil case in the United States over allegations of sexual abuse against Virginia Giuffre, Prince Andrew has also been barred from the balcony appearance. Ditto for his daughters, Princess Eugenia and Beatrice, and their husbands and new babies.
Several other royals who usually attend also won’t appear on the balcony as the list has been shortened to 16 people to avoid potential diplomatic pitfalls. In total, at least 34 royals will be absent.
Peter Philips and Zara Tindall, the children of Princess Anne, also have been excluded with their families, as well as Prince Michael of Kent and family with whom the Queen enjoys a warm relationship,
Who will be there?
In a formal statement about the decision, Buckingham Palace said: “After careful consideration, The Queen has decided this year’s traditional Trooping the Colour balcony appearance on Thursday 2nd June will be limited to Her Majesty and those Members of the Royal Family who are currently undertaking official public duties on behalf of The Queen.”
So, then, who will be there? The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and their children, the Princess Royal and Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra.
There have been media reports that the queen herself may not appear on the balcony, again due to her “limited mobility.”
The extravaganza has started
Nevertheless, she was able to attend one of the first spectacles organized as a preamble to the official Jubilee celebrations: an open-air equestrian show at Windsor Castle called ‘A Gallop Through History’, featuring more than 500 horses and 1,000 performers, children’s choirs, a 75-piece orchestra and stars from stage and screen including Tom Cruise, Helen Mirren, Catherine Jenkins and Damian Lewis, alongside equestrian, military and musical performances from all over the world.
Different eras of British history were enacted on stage as part of the show. Dame Helen Mirren, who has played both Queen Elizabeths on TV and film, reprised her role as the Tudor monarch.
Thursday, June 2: Queen’s birthday parade and Trooping the Colour takes place in London as Platinum Jubilee Beacons across 2,000 towns and cities are lit.
Friday, June 3: National Service of Thanksgiving is held at St Paul’s cathedral in London. Ringing of Great Paul, the restored biggest church bell in the country.
Saturday, June 4: The Derby at Epsom Downs Racecourse and BBC Platinum Party at the Palace.
Sunday, June 5: Big Jubilee Lunch and street parties. Platinum Jubilee Pageant, a procession and performance in central London involving 10,000 people and the Gold State Coach.