Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating an unprecedented 70 years on the British throne. Across four days of outlandish pomp and ceremony, the British people will celebrate the life and times of a Queen who has ruled over them since 1952.
The 96-year-old is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, and the third-longest reigning in world history. She is surpassed only by the French King Louis XIV, who ruled for some 72 years between 1643 and 1715, and Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was on the throne from 1946 to 2016.
The 2022 Platinum Jubilee celebration kicked off on Thursday with splendid military parades and short-lived animal rights protests, whereas Friday saw the UK PM Boris Johnson loudly booed and the Queen having to take a rest.
On Saturday, a concert was held at Buckingham Palace, but it was a sketch featuring the queen having a cream tea with British national treasure Paddington Bear at Buckingham Palace that stole the show.
But what happened Sunday? Here are the highlights so far.
Sunday, June 5
A colourful street pageant celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s life and highlighting Britain’s diversity paraded through central London on Sunday, the final day of a long holiday weekend honouring the monarch’s 70 years on the throne. Royal fans were hoping to see another glimpse of the 96-year-old queen later at Buckingham Palace, where the parade ends.
With the ringing of bells at Westminster Abbey, a spectacular military parade featuring 200 horses began the ceremony as they marched 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.
The queen was not taking part in the pageant — however, a virtual version of her, drawn from archival video from her 1953 coronation, was shown in the carriage’s windows.
Some 6,000 performers were parading 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 Aston Martins. Celebrities including singer Cliff Richard danced and sang from open-top double-decker buses meant to represent the sights and sounds of each decade from the 1950s onwards.
Organisers said the pageant is expected to be watched by 1 billion people around the world.
Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, who made their first family trip to the UK since they stepped away from royal duties and moved to the US in 2020 were also not seen at the pageant. The couple has largely stayed out of the limelight during the Platinum Jubilee events.
Saturday, June 4
World-famous musicians regaled an audience in London on Saturday as they paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II at a star-studded concert outside Buckingham Palace celebrating the monarch’s 70 years on the throne.
There were 22,000 people in the audience at the giant stage set in front of the palace, which also used the Queen’s official London residence as a vast screen to project spectacular images of her reign, and graphics to accompany the musical acts.
Rock band Queen and Adam Lambert kicked off the open-air show outside the palace, followed by sets from Duran Duran, Rod Stewart and opera singer Andrea Bocelli.
There were performances to highlight the diversity of British talent from rap to pop music, dance and musical theatre.
A drone show above the crowd featured images of a teapot pouring tea into a cup, corgi dogs — the Queen’s favourite — military guardsmen, horses and even a handbag.
Audiences were thrilled by the light shows, and big-name acts like Alicia Keys, Jax Jones, George Ezra and Elbow – who performed with a choir of refugees from more than 30 countries.
Britain’s Sam Ryder gave an enthusiastic performance of his Eurovision hit song Space Man to the delight of the crowd; while Diana Ross closed out the show in her first UK performance in 15 years.
The Queen did not attend the event herself after it was announced she would also miss Derby Day at Epsom Downs racecourse Saturday afternoon.
A keen horse-racing fan and owner-breeder, Elizabeth II skipped the 243rd running of the Derby because of “episodic mobility problems” which forced her to miss Friday’s thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral.
The daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Lilibet, turned one on Saturday. Harry and Meghan named their child Lilibet “Lili” Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, who was born in California, in honour of the Queen, whose family nickname has been “Lilibet” since she was a child.
The Queen met her great-granddaughter for the first time this week as Harry and Meghan returned to London for the Jubilee celebrations with their daughter and son Archie.
Friday, June 3
Kicking off the morning’s events at 10.50 am, the Great Paul, the largest church bell in the UK, rang for five minutes, followed by a longer peal of bells until 11:25 a.m. This came ahead of the traditional thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in central London.
The BBC reported that the Queen would be watching the event on television from Windsor. As a devout Christian, she was said to be disappointed to not be able to attend in person.
In an unexpected turn of events, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was booed loudly by crowds that gathered outside the cathedral as he made his entrance.
Other guests and dignitaries in attendance were Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, with Prince Charles officially representing the Queen, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The couple were cheered by the crowd as they arrived for their first royal event together since leaving the UK two years ago.
After the service, guests and dignitaries filed over to the sunny courtyard of London’s Guildhall, where they tucked into smoked Norfolk duck breast, smoked salmon, beetroot shortbread and clotted cream vanilla ice cream.
Polling data released ahead of the Jubillee weekend by YouGov showed that 62 per cent of the UK population were in favour of the monarchy, 22 per cent wanted an elected head of state, and 16 per cent said they did not know.
Thursday, June 2
After distant cannon shots around the commonwealth, celebrations began with the Queen’s birthday parade, known as Trooping the Colour.
1,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians took part in the 260-year-old march from Buckingham Palace down the Mall to the Horse Guards Parade, as thousands of royal fans donned in Union Jacks and Queen memorabilia cheered them on.
At least four protestors from Animal Rebellion, an animal rights and climate justice group, jumped over the barriers and tried to interrupt the Trooping the Colour.
The action, the group said, was aimed at “demanding that royal land is reclaimed” and to protest “the Crown’s inaction on the climate emergency and continued support for meat, fishing, and dairy”.
The parade ended with a flyover by the Red Arrows which was watched by crowds in London and four generations of the royal family from the famed Buckingham Palace balcony.
Prince Andrew, the Queen’s son who was recently embroiled in a sex scandal and banished from front-line duties, tested positive for COVID and missed the parade. Buckingham Palace said he wouldn’t attend Friday’s church service with his family, either.
Four-year-old Prince Loius did not appear to be a fan of the Royal Airforce flyover, which saw 70 aircraft thunder over The Mall. He covered his ears and made a shocked expression, prompting his great-grandmother to laugh.
After dark, more than 2,000 towns and cities in the UK and overseas lit beacons to mark the Jubilee. Fires were started by ‘beacon masters’ on hilltops, castle walls, country estates and farm fields, in a practice dating back to medieval times.
Late on Thursday evening, Her Majesty announced that, while she had “greatly enjoyed” the first day of celebrations, she “did experience some discomfort” and would not attend Friday’s events.