While some traveled all the way from the United States, Canada and elsewhere to honor the queen, messages also poured in from world leaders and other figures, including Pope Francis. President Joe Biden paid tribute to the queen’s “selfless devotion and service,” while former President Barack Obama noted her “grace and generosity” and said her life had been a “gift” not just to the United Kingdom, but also to the world.
Thursday is the start of a long weekend and public holiday to celebrate the queen’s 70-year reign.
After dark, more than 1,500 beacons will be lighted across Britain and overseas to cap the opening day of events. On Friday, there will be a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Saturday will see a concert at the palace, and Sunday will feature nationwide street parties before the events close with the Platinum Jubilee Pageant, a four-part festival of celebrity-packed music and theater.
In a break with tradition, the jubilee began with younger royal generations taking center stage.
First, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and her three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, were whisked past the crowds in a horse-drawn carriage. Then, Prince Charles, Prince William and Princess Anne arrived on horseback to inspect the regiments involved in Trooping the Color, a military parade that has been held for more than 260 years to mark the monarch’s ceremonial summer birthday.
When the queen finally did appear, she seemed to take spectators and even broadcasters by surprise with an understated entrance onto the Buckingham Palace balcony.
She came out wearing a light blue hat and coat adorned with a brooch, as well as her now ever-present walking stick, necessary because of her “episodic mobility problems,” according to the palace. The queen, later reappeared with a pair of sunglasses, joined on the balcony by Charles, his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, William and Kate and their three children — the youngest of whom stole a little of the limelight for himself.
They weren’t the only ones to watch the flypast by the Royal Air Force.
Communities across London and southeast England felt their houses shake as a line of helicopters, World War II-era Spitfires and high-tech jets tore low under the fluffy summer clouds — the display culminating in a red, white and blue vapor trail and fighter jets spelling out a large “70” over the capital.
It was one of many unions of the past, present and future employed to mark an occasion that also offered a chance for the country to take stock.