Celebrations to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the British throne reached a climax as the monarch appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony in front of cheering crowds and the Royal Air Force staged a flypast.
Thousands of well-wishers waving flags surged toward the monarch’s central London residence for the finale of four days of Diamond Jubilee events. An hour earlier, the 86-year-old monarch returned from lunch at the Houses of Parliament in an open horse-drawn carriage. She attended a thanksgiving service this morning at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the financial district.
Forecast rain largely held off during the day. A shadow was cast over the celebrations yesterday when the queen’s husband, Prince Philip, who turns 91 next week, was hospitalized with a bladder infection.
“We’ve seen people coming together in tremendous unity and spirit,” Prime Minister David Cameron told BBC television. “We’ve also seen a great resilience -- people wanting to celebrate even though the weather’s been pretty bad -- and an extraordinary resilience on behalf of her majesty who, in spite of all the problems and difficulties, has kept going, and with such incredible spirit. She’s a real inspiration.”
Cameron was among the congregation in St. Paul’s for the thanksgiving service. Chants of “God Save the Queen” broke out as the queen arrived at the cathedral door to a fanfare of trumpets.
Eighteen RAF planes, including a World War II Lancaster bomber and the Red Arrows display team trailing red, white and blue smoke, took part in the flypast.
“We are marking today the anniversary of one historic and very public act of dedication, a dedication that has endured faithfully, calmly and generously through most of the adult lives of most of us here,” the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who heads the Church of England, said in his sermon. “We are marking six decades of living proof that public service is possible, and that it is a place where happiness can be found.”
With Prince Philip absent, the queen’s son and heir to the throne, Prince Charles, sat next to his mother during the service. Philip also missed a concert last night outside Buckingham Palace that featured stars including Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.
Charles and his wife Camilla traveled in the queen’s carriage in this afternoon’s procession, followed by Charles’s son and daughter-in-law, Prince William and Catherine, and William’s brother, Prince Harry.
Prince Philip, who is also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, is receiving hospital treatment for the second time in six months. He had a coronary stent inserted for a blocked artery in December after suffering chest pains, causing him to miss the royal family’s Christmas celebrations.
“The Duke of Edinburgh was taken to King Edward VII Hospital in London this afternoon, from Windsor Castle, as a precautionary measure after developing a bladder infection, which is being assessed and treated,” the royal household said in a statement on its website yesterday. “Prince Philip will remain in hospital under observation for a few days. He is understandably disappointed about missing this evening’s Diamond Jubilee concert and tomorrow’s engagements.”
The queen described Philip on their golden wedding anniversary in 1997 as “my strength and stay all these years.”
The prince was hospitalized a day after the royal couple took part in a 1,000-boat Diamond Jubilee pageant on the River Thames, watched by an estimated 1 million people amid driving rain and unseasonably cold temperatures.
The queen arrived halfway through last night’s concert outside the royal palace, which included performances by Grace Jones and Kylie Minogue, as well as McCartney, Cliff Richard, Elton John and Tom Jones -- all of whom have been knighted by the monarch. In contrast to the previous day, the skies above central London were cloudless.
Charles mentioned his father’s illness at the end of the concert, as he led the audience in three cheers for his mother.
“If we shout loud enough he might just hear us in hospital,” Charles joked.
The archbishop also spoke of the Duke of Edinburgh in his sermon this morning, saying that “our prayers and thoughts are very much with him.”
Only one British monarch has spent longer than the current queen on the throne: Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901. Her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, captured on grainy black-and-white film, is the only precedent for this week’s events.