On Thursday, a four-day extravaganza officially begins celebrating a monarch so iconic that she is simply “the Queen” to much of the world. There will be parades, pageants, concerts, street parties, beacon lightings and horse races. Britain is groaning under Platinum Jubilee paraphernalia: banners flutter everywhere while mailboxes are adorned with knitted queens, corgis and thrones.
The focus of all the celebrations will be on Queen Elizabeth II, her service to both country and Commonwealth, and the remarkable achievement of being the first British monarch to reach 70 years on the throne. (She passed the previous record holder, Queen Victoria, in 2015.) “The jubilee is a two-way celebration between monarch and people,” explains Robert Hardman, author of a new biography, “Queen of Our Times.”
“It’s about her, and it’s not about the rest of the family.”
Yet, for all the careful planning, everyone will be waiting to see which events the increasingly fragile monarch attends. The 96-year-old is experiencing what the palace calls “episodic mobility problems.” She walks slowly and carefully with the help of a tall walking stick and her appearances are now confirmed at the last minute.
Perhaps the most famous public appearance of the Platinum Jubilee occurs on Thursday on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. The Queen and select royals will assemble for the Royal Air Force flypast after Trooping the Colour, which marks the Queen’s official birthday. (Her real one is in April, when the weather is iffy.) In pre-pandemic times, she filled the balcony with her extended family, including throngs of distant relations. Now, she’s restricted that privilege to the 12 working royals of the House of Windsor — ranging from the Queen and her heirs Charles and William to her cousin, Princess Alexandra of Kent, 85, plus their young kids, so yay, George, Charlotte and Louis.
The change to include only royals who perform duties on behalf of the monarch neatly eliminates a big group photo featuring three controversial former working royals: Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, as well as Prince Andrew.
Then there’s the thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Friday. The royals will be out in force, including Harry, Meghan and Andrew, marking the first time the entire Windsor clan has been together after two-scandal plagued years. It will be much-watch TV for everyone interested in royal pomp and ceremony. (Canadian viewers can watch both days’ events live on CBC.)
After that, there is the Epsom Derby and a star-studded concert just outside the palace on Saturday followed by an over-the-top pageant on Sunday, including the massive Gold State Coach that the Queen used for her coronation.
The extended holiday is also a time to have fun, including at more than 15,000 street parties being held throughout Britain.
To help Canadians take part in the celebrations, if only virtually, the Star has created a Platinum Jubilee bingo card. Watch the festivities and the media coverage to see how many items you can find, and how quickly you can cross off five items in a line. Tweet your card to @TorontoStar if you get BINGO!
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