Top posts

Featured Posts

Britain stops to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee with river pageant

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip watch the flotilla fromthe royal barge during the Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the
River Thames in London. Source: AP
THE BOATS appeared, scores of them stretched across the river from bank to bank, and as they did a monochrome world turned into a blaze of colour.

A Thames murky and brown, a sky drab and grey, all transformed in the space of a few moments into a Canaletto for the 21st century.

So began the pageant to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, a celebration that was no sooner over than it sailed straight into the record books, confirmed by Guinness World Records as the largest parade of boats ever seen.

And at the heart of it the Queen, an 86-year-old great-grandmother whose idea of a perfect afternoon may not have included sailing down the Thames on an unseasonally cold and windswept day waving to all and sundry.

But if she minded - if she, as her cousin suggested, regarded the whole thing with a certain amount of dread - well, it didn't look like that. By the end of it all, when the London Philharmonic Orchestra played her a jolly sailor's hornpipe to round off proceedings before the National Anthem, she looked like a sovereign having an absolutely splendid time, gently bending her knees in time to the music.
The most influential people in Sport

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, stands next to Prince Harry,Prince William and Queen Elizabeth as they watch the proceedingonboard the Royal barge during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageanton the River Thames. Source: AP
Oh yes, and it rained. It is in the great tradition of major royal events that the best of them - the Coronation is the historic example - should be marred by foul weather: traditional, too, that people should say that no one minded.

This may not be strictly true. As a woman standing next to The Times on Chelsea Bridge remarked: "Are you going to write that it is finger-numbingly cold?" But it is not that far off either. More than a million people came into London to watch it. That's a million people who saw the forecast, packed an extra layer of clothing and some waterproofs and decided to take their chances with the weather.

Queen Elizabeth and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall,on the royal barge during the Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames. Source: AP
Not everyone was in a position to be quite so steadfast. The flypast by nine helicopters of the Fleet Air Arm which was meant to be the finale to the pageant, flying over the Queen in a "Diamond Nine" pattern, was cancelled because it was too dangerous to fly.

If the Queen started her pageant in tentative mood, an air of uncertainty about her as she was greeted by a line of Chelsea pensioners at Chelsea Pier, by the time she boarded the Royal Barge she had warmed up, waving at the crowds and pointing at the boats that took her fancy.

Warming up, though, is a state of mind: staying warm is a physical challenge. On board the Spirit of Chartwell were two red velvet thrones, made for the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. As far as one could tell, the Queen did not sit in her throne: it did, however, seem to make a decent windbreak. As the flotilla made its way downstream from Battersea to Wapping, the Queen went below deck for a short break, emerging a while later wrapped in shawl.

At least she had a canopy, and somewhere to hide from the worst of the weather. Everyone else had to plough on regardless. Perhaps a medal should be struck for the singers from the Royal College of Music chamber choir, who gave a rousing version of Land of Hope and Glory as if they had not noticed that they were soaked to the skin.

On a day of spectacle, it is invidious to pick out the moments of magic. The Queen certainly liked her War Horse moment, watching as Joey, the play's puppet star, reared up on the roof of the National Theatre. She smiled as she shared that with her fellow horse-lover, the Duchess of Cornwall.

The Duke of Edinburgh seemed to love it all, marching about as he pointed out things of interest to Prince Harry. As the boat passed the Sea Containers building, he moved for a closer look at the 100m-wide photo of the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Silver Jubilee.

Anti-monarchy protesters gather close to the riverThames in central London during celebrations for the Queen's diamond jubilee. Source: AP
The rest of us? Crammed on to bridges, lining the banks, craning our necks to see. The Royal Barge was a glorious, gaudy sight but perhaps there was nothing to beat the 265 man-powered vessels making their way against a stiff headwind. Dressed in stripes and boaters, Maori feathers and pirate costume, they made a splendid spectacle.

Noisy, too. Boots tooted, and whistled, and sounded their klaxons as they passed under the bridges (and the pirate boat gave a chorus of "Aaarrrr").

As it ended, the words of Thomas Cranmner describing a pageant for another Queen, Anne Boleyn, came to mind. There were, he said, "trumpets, shawms, and other divers instruments playing and making great melody," all of it "as comely done as never was like in any time nigh to our remembrance".

Or perhaps just the simpler sentiment of Sue Traynor, sitting in the rain with her coronation chicken on Chelsea Bridge. "It has been absolutely superb," she said. "When it first started I wanted to cry, I was so proud."

1 comment:

  1. CONGRATULATION to Queen Elizabeth II, head of our Commonwealth countries. We in Sabah and Sarawak hope the Queen would invite us Sabah and Sarawak to participate in the next Commonwealth Games as independent countries..


Search This Blog