Perhaps, as she looked out over the hundreds of rain-lashed boats sailing down the Thames to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, the Queen was thinking of another cold, wet, miserable spring day: June 2, 1953, the day of her coronation. She is, after all, the monarch of a windswept island kingdom in the north Atlantic, where the only sport more popular than complaining about the weather is proudly enduring it.
"Newspapers half-price 'cause it's raining," called a Cockney vendor. "Get 'em while they're wet." The crowd along the Thames might have been larger if it had been sunny, but it couldn't have been more enthusiastic: Groups of schoolchildren broke into spontaneous renditions of God Save the Queen, and people at the front, closest to the river, good-naturedly put down their umbrellas when those in the back yelled, "brollies down!"
Once the brollies were down, everyone in the back could see what the fuss was about. The Queen, looking chilly but stoic, sailed on a flower-bedecked former passenger cruiser renamed The Spirit of Chartwell, along with members of her immediate family. (Her granddaughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, seemed to be feeling the cold a tiny bit more.) As the boat passed the National Theatre, the Queen – a famous horse-lover – smiled broadly at the appearance of Joey, the puppet-steed from the hit play Warhorse.
The Thames pageant, two years in the planning, is the highlight of a four-day celebration of the Queen's six decades on the throne. The entire country gets a four-day weekend, while the festival of the monarchy continues with a concert at Buckingham Palace tomorrow (Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox and Stevie Wonder are expected to play), the lighting of a Commonwealth-wide chain of beacons and a procession and service at St. Paul's Cathedral on Tuesday.