Queen Elizabeth II Will Skip Friday Jubilee Event

LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II stepped gingerly onto the Buckingham Palace balcony Thursday, drawing wild cheers from the tens of thousands who came to join her at the start of four days of celebrations of her 70 years on the throne.

Many of her admirers wore Union Jack flags and party hats. Some had camped overnight in hopes of glimpsing of 96-year-old queen, whose appearances are becoming rare, and a chance to watch the Trooping the Color — a military parade that has marked each sovereign’s official birthday since 1760.

There was joy and excitement in the crowd. This event marked one of the biggest gatherings held since the COVID-19 epidemic.

“Everybody has got the same mission,” said Hillary Mathews, 70, who had come from Hertfordshire, outside London. “All the horrors that’s been going on in the world and in England at the moment are put behind us for a day, and we can just enjoy really celebrating the queen.”

Learn More What is the longest-reigning monarch as Queen Elizabeth II marks her Platinum Jubilee?

Elizabeth, who became queen at 25, is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and the first to reach the milestone of seven decades on the throne.

But, despite a long and healthy life, she is now in decline. Buckingham Palace announced Thursday evening that the queen would not attend a thanksgiving church service Friday after experiencing “some discomfort” at events on Thursday. The palace said with “great reluctance” the monarch has decided to skip the service at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Celebrations continue for an extended weekend. It was not immediately clear how this news would impact Jubilee events Saturday and Sunday.

The palace says “the queen greatly enjoyed” Thursday’s events — and it showed.

She enjoyed every moment. She smiled as she talked with Prince Louis (4 years old), who sometimes covered his ears while 70 military planes flew low above the palace to greet the queen. The display lasted six minutes and featured Typhoon fighter planes in formation, flying in the numeral 70.

The queen, wearing a dusky dove blue dress designed by Angela Kelly, was joined on the balcony by more than a dozen royals — though not Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who gave up front-line royal duties two years ago. The couple traveled to London from their home in California with their two young children to take a low-key part in the celebrations, and watched Thursday’s Trooping the Color with other members of the family.

Because the monarch wanted only the working royals to be honored, they did not make it onto the balcony of the palace. This decision effectively excluded Prince Andrew who was expelled from public service amid scandal over his links to Jeffrey Epstein.

Learn More Parades, Pageants, and Afternoon Tea: The History of Britain’s Royal Jubilee Celebrations

Andrew will also miss a service of thanksgiving Friday at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London after testing positive for COVID-19.

A four-day celebration of the jubilee will be held. Events include a Saturday concert at Buckingham Palace and Sunday pageant featuring thousands of participants from community and school groups across the country. Thousands of street parties are planned nationwide, repeating a tradition that began with the queen’s coronation in 1953.

However, not everyone is in the UK celebrating. Many are taking advantage of this long weekend to take a vacation. After negotiating the barriers, 12 protesters were taken into custody Thursday. The group Animal Rebellion claimed responsibility, saying the protesters were “demanding that royal land is reclaimed.”

Yet the jubilee is giving many people — even those indifferent to the monarchy — a chance to reflect on the state of the nation and the huge changes that have taken place during Elizabeth’s reign.

Former Prime Minister John Major, one of the 14 prime ministers during the queen’s reign, said the monarch’s stoic presence had helped steer the country over the decades.

“The queen has represented our better selves for over 70 years,” he told the BBC.

The queen wrote a jubilee message in which she thanked everyone involved in organising the celebrations in Britain and throughout the Commonwealth. A good party is what this country likes.

“I know that many happy memories will be created at these festive occasions,” Elizabeth said. “I continue to be inspired by the goodwill shown to me, and hope that the coming days will provide an opportunity to reflect on all that has been achieved during the last 70 years, as we look to the future with confidence and enthusiasm.”

World leaders including the U.S. President Joe Biden, and Pope Francis received their congratulations. French President Emmanuel Macron called Elizabeth “the golden thread that binds our two countries” and former President Barack Obama recalled the queen’s “grace and generosity” during his first visit to the palace.

“Your life has been a gift, not just to the United Kingdom but to the world,” Obama said in a video message, adding: “May the light of your crown continue to reign supreme.”

Cheers and the clop of hooves rang out Thursday as horse-drawn carriages carried members of the royal family, including Prince William’s wife, Kate, and their children Prince George, 8, Princess Charlotte, 7, and 4-year-old Prince Louis, from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards Parade, a ceremonial parade ground about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) away, for the Trooping the Color ceremony.

An annual ceremony is held to reenact the display of battle flags or colors by soldiers. This was done in an effort to ensure that they could recognize important rallying points in case of disorientation during combat.

Prince Charles, who was acting as his mother’s representative at the event, played an important role. Elizabeth has struggled to get around recently, and her courtiers made it easy for her.

Charles was dressed in his ceremonial military uniform and rode to the parade grounds on horseback. He took the salute for the soldiers in scarlet tunics, bearskin hats as they passed him. Charles was flanked his older brother, Prince William, and Princess Anne.

The parade ground and palace were crowded with tourists and locals who sat down to enjoy the sights and atmosphere.

“I was right at the front … I’m very proud of the queen,″ said Celia Lourd, 60. “She’s been my queen all my life and I think we owe her an awful lot for the service she’s given to the country. So I wanted to come to show my support today and say thank you.”





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