LONDON (AP) — Four days of celebration honoring Queen Elizabeth II. 70 years on the throne began on Thursday with a display of British military traditions spanning from the days of horses and guns to the jet age.
Formal celebrations of the platinum jubilee began with Trooping the Color, an annual military revue that has marked the sovereign’s official birthday since 1760. The Queen is expected to join the working members of her family The balcony of Buckingham Palace at the end of the event when 70 airplanes will roar overhead.
The anniversary will be celebrated with a four-day holiday weekend. Celebrations of Elizabeth’s reign include a thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Friday, a concert at Buckingham Palace on Saturday and a pageant directed by her thousands of performers drawn by schools and community groups across the country on Sunday afternoons.
Throughout the weekend, community organizations and individuals will host thousands of street parties across the country, repeating a tradition that began with the Queen’s coronation in 1953.
The 96-year-old Queen is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and the first to reach the milestone of seven decades on the throne. The anniversary gives many people – including those who are often indifferent to the monarchy – a chance to reflect on the state of the nation and the tremendous changes that have taken place during their reign.
Former Prime Minister John Major – one of 14 prime ministers during the Queen’s reign – said the monarch’s stoic presence has helped guide the country over the decades.
“The Queen has represented our better selves for over 70 years,” he told the BBC.
In a written anniversary message, the Queen thanked the people of Britain and across the Commonwealth who were involved in organizing the celebrations. For many, the occasion marks the first opportunity for a big party since the coronavirus pandemic began more than two years ago.
“I know that these festive occasions will create many fond memories,” Elizabeth said.
“I continue to be inspired by the goodwill shown to me and hope that the coming days will provide an opportunity to look back on all that has been achieved over the past 70 years as we look to the future with confidence and enthusiasm,” she said said.
Congratulations came from world leaders. French President Emmanuel Macron called Elizabeth “the golden thread connecting our two countries” and one of the “very few constants” on the international stage.
“You are our friend, such a close ally, our example of service to others,” Macron told the Queen in a video message in English.
The name of the long weekend’s first event, Trooping the Color, refers to a regimental flag or ‘color’ being drawn through the ranks. Britain’s annual Queen’s Birthday tradition is a ceremonial re-enactment of the way soldiers were once shown battle flags to ensure they would recognize a crucial rallying point should they lose their bearings in combat.
The troops taking part are from the Army’s Household Division, made up of the seven regiments performing ceremonial duties for the Queen. Its members are fully trained soldiers and are often deployed abroad when not on ceremonial duty.
Each year, a different unit has the honor of wearing their color. The 1st Battalion Irish Guards will be in the spotlight during the Platinum Jubilee.
Thousands of people, some camped overnight, lined the parade route – many wearing Union Jack flags, party hats or plastic tiaras.
Carly Martin, who took an overnight bus from south London with her daughter, said she came “to make memories”.
“You’ll never see that again in your life,” she said. “At least not in mine, maybe not in my daughter’s. … Seventy years – that’s all I’ve ever known.”
Several protesters were arrested after getting past barriers and onto the parade route. The group Animal Rebellion claimed responsibility, saying the protesters were demanding “the retaking of the royal lands”.
Cheers and the sound of hooves rang out as horse-drawn carriages carried members of the Royal Family, including Prince William’s wife Kate and their children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards Parade, a celebratory parade some 1 kilometer (1 mile) ( 0.6 miles) away.
The Queen is expected to appear twice on the Buckingham Palace balcony Prince Charles plays a key role during the event. Mounted on horseback, he will take the salute from the ranks of the scarlet-clad guards on behalf of his mother, along with his sister Princess Anne and son Prince William.
Elizabeth had been having trouble getting around lately, and her courtiers were careful to make things as easy as possible for her.
Senior royals, including Prince Charles’ wife Camilla, traveled in carriages to watch the ceremony from a building overlooking the parade ground.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will join other royals to watch the spectacle. Harry and Meghan have traveled from their home in California to attend the celebrations.
(Copyright (c) 2022 Sunbeam Television. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.)
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