LONDON – Queen Elizabeth II said she felt “humbled” after she delighted crowds Sunday with a surprise appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, closing out the celebrations on the final day of her jubilee.
On a day that saw Brits celebrate the queen with a pageant and picnics, she made an unscheduled appearance on the balcony wearing a bright green dress and hat. The queen smiled and waved at the crowd below as she stepped out alongside Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla; Prince William and his wife, Kate; and their children, George, Charlotte and Louis. It was, in a single frame, a snapshot of the Windsor dynasty.
The Royal Marines Band played the national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” with the crowd singing along while the queen looked out at the vast throng, stretching as far as the eye could see.
As the jubilee long weekend came to a close, the queen sent a message of thanks.
In a statement from the palace, signed Elizabeth R., the queen said: “When it comes to how to mark seventy years as your Queen, there is no guidebook to follow. It really is a first. But I have been humbled and deeply touched that so many people have taken to the streets to celebrate my Platinum Jubilee.
“While I may not have attended every event in person, my heart has been with you all; and I remain committed to serving you to the best of my ability, supported by my family,” she said.
The queen was the clear star over the past four days, whether appearing in person or virtually at events. But Charles and William, the next two kings, also played prominent roles – a sign of the ongoing transition of power.
The queen’s Sunday appearance wasn’t scheduled. The queen was last seen in public Thursday, the first day of celebrations during her record-breaking Platinum Jubilee. After that appearance, also on the Buckingham Palace balcony, the palace issued a statement saying that the queen was pulling out of some events after experiencing “some discomfort.” She returned to Windsor Castle, which is now her main base.
But eagle-eyed royal fans at Buckingham Palace in London on the final day of the four-day celebration noticed that the Royal Standard flag, flown only when the monarch is in residence, was hoisted up above Buckingham Palace in the afternoon.
Crowds had gathered at the palace and nearby streets on Sunday for the Jubilee Pageant, a carnival that snaked through nearby streets and included the Gold State Coach, an elaborate carriage pulled by eight horses. An image of the queen from her coronation was projected onto the windows, making it appear as if she was sitting inside the carriage.
Meanwhile, millions took part in street parties and the “Big Jubilee Lunch” over the weekend, some of which ended early because of, well, British weather. Street parties, a tradition that started after World War I, are a fixture during major royal occasions.
Buckingham Palace said more than 85,000 people had signed up to host Big Jubilee Lunches, with Charles and Camilla putting on the feed bag at the Oval Cricket Ground in London. Some of those picnicking said that they were fans of the royals and that this was a moment to reflect on their popular queen, her long service and the very real sense that this was a nation celebrating her on a scale that won’t be matched again. Others said they weren’t really fussed by the monarchy but did welcome an excuse for a party with bubbly and bunting after the bummer pandemic years. The majority of Brits still approve of the monarchy, but its popularity has dipped in the past decade, especially among young people.
One street party in southwest London had face painting, guitar strumming and a street bake-off on the roster. A local firetruck appeared at one point and firefighters helped youngsters hose down other children, delighting all. The firefighters left when they got a call out from the fire department but later returned for cake.
Looking on at the scene, Kwame Gyamfi, 43, a mechanical design engineer, said the street parties, which don’t come around that often, “are needed to bring people together. People have been locked up for near enough two years,” he said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.
In Colchester, a city in southeast England founded by the Romans, there was much partying – in part because as one of the oldest “towns” in England, it was awarded “city” status to mark the jubilee (meaning more money for city coffers).
Lin Gildea, a retired head teacher who organized one of the Big Lunches, smiled with quiet satisfaction as neighbors brought forth plates of poppy cake, Victoria sponge and Chelsea buns, along with cans of beer, bottles of bubbly and pots of proper tea.
And the food kept coming – until the tables groaned.
Gildea thought the Big Lunch was just one more gift from the monarch – a chance for the people to make merry – and talk real estate values and commute times.
“I’m not a massive royalist, but this queen is one in a million,” she said.