Large crowds gathered in central London on Thursday in the bright sun to mark the start of a four-day public event marking the historic platinum jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, the last major public event of her long reign.
In the morning, a steady stream of people, carrying many Union flags and picnic baskets, headed for The Mall near Buckingham Palace, where the 96-year-old king would later make two appearances.
But as well as seeing the pomp and pageantry of Trooping the Color Military Parade, many felt that an era was coming to an end.
Ambulance service worker Gilbert Falkner, 65, from Scotland, went to witness the Queen’s official birthday party.
“We know this is a special occasion because it may be the last day we will see the king at a public event,” he told AFP.
“It’s very significant,” said Daniel Marmah, another viewer. “This is the first time we’ve got a king who’s survived so many years.”
The Queen’s participation in the celebration of her record-breaking 70 years on the throne has been a source of speculation for months.
Because of the difficulty in standing and walking – and because of Covid, he has had to reduce his public presence significantly since last year.
But royal officials have confirmed that he will salute the soldiers mounted on the porch. The century-old ceremony was preceded by the Queen being seen saluting on horseback.
Her 73-year-old son and heir, Prince Charles, will step down this year, supported by his sister Princess Ann, 71, and his eldest son, Prince William, 39.
Prince Harry, Charles’ youngest son, and his wife, Meghan, will join senior members of the royal family on a rare trip from California to see a display of military prowess, Buckingham Palace has confirmed.
But the queen’s humiliated second son, Prince Andrew, 62, is not expected to join them.
He will return to the veranda after seeing the fly-past of military aircraft with the iconic model of World War II, the palace said.
At night, the Queen will be at Windsor Castle, west of London, to attend more than 3,000 Beacons across the country and Commonwealth Leadership Ceremony in 54 countries.
Elizabeth was a 25-year-old princess when she succeeded her father, King George VI, in 1952, bringing a rare touch of glamor to a troubled nation that endured food rations even after World War II.
Seventy years later, he is now the only emperor who is best known to Britain, becoming a permanent figure in an often turbulent time.
Britain’s first and most likely only platinum jubilee will see street parties, pop concerts and parades until Sunday.
It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.
On Sunday, the climax of a huge public pageant involving 6,000 performers – again from the balcony of the palace – could make its final appearance.
On Wednesday, the Queen thanked everyone involved in hosting community events in Britain and around the world.
“I know this festival will create a lot of happy memories,” he 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 what has been achieved in the last 70 years, as we look to the future with confidence and enthusiasm.”
The jubilee, held against the backdrop of rising inflation that has plagued so many British people, is being seen not only as a rest for the public, but also for the royal family, two years after being attacked by Covid.
Harry, 37, and Meghan, 40, created a shockwave in early 2020 by moving to North America, from where they publicly criticized royal life.
In April last year, she lost her 73-year-old husband, Prince Philip, and was forced to sit alone at her funeral due to coronavirus restrictions.
Since then, he has struggled with his health, and also the consequences of Andrew’s links to convicted sex offenders Jeffrey Epstein and Ghisline Maxwell.
Andrew, who settled a U.S. citizen’s claim for sexual harassment in February, has been effectively removed from his royal duties.
The focus is on the growing legacy, and the future home of the monarchy and the other 14 Commonwealth countries where the queen is also the head of state.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)