Skip to main content

Queen Elizabeth II, 96, will become the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. Britain is set to mark the occasion with a four-day bank holiday weekend from June 2 to June 5

Royal super-fan Margaret Tyler poses with her collection of memorabilia in the 'Jubilee room' of her home in the London suburb of Wembley. This year marks Queen Elizabeth II's 70th year on the throne.ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

Britain is getting ready for a four-day party this week to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and commemorate her 70 years on the throne. It’s a celebration like no other for the 96-year-old monarch. More than 2,700 events have been planned across the U.K. from June 2 to June 5, ranging from hundreds of community tea parties to a couple of drag queen bingos and a punk rock festival. Pubs will be open longer, bells will ring out and there will be plenty of kitschy souvenirs for sale.

When does it start?

The official kick off is 10 a.m. on Thursday with Trooping the Colour. That’s an annual parade of guards, horses and musicians in honour of the Queen’s birthday. She was born on April 21, but for more than 260 years, the sovereign’s birthday has been celebrated in June during the Trooping; because, well, it’s too cold in April.

This year’s Jubilee Trooping will include more than 1,200 soldiers, 240 horses, hundreds of Army musicians and a gun salute. Members of the Royal Family will make an appearance on the balcony at Buckingham Palace to watch a special flypast. The Queen is expected to be there for part of it too, health permitting. Beacons will be lit in London, Ottawa and every other Commonwealth capital on Thursday.

What happens next?

After the Trooping, the official program includes a national service of thanksgiving in St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday. On Sunday, there’s a Platinum Pageant around Buckingham Palace – a giant carnival featuring 10,000 performers and volunteers telling the story of the Queen’s reign. Also on Sunday, 60,000 communities across the U.K. will hold picnics, barbecues and street parties all in the name of the “Big Jubilee Lunch.”

Soldiers in the Household Division take part in the Colonel's Review in London on May 28, the final evaluation before the Trooping the Colour event on June 2.Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Royal fan John Loughrey shows off his hat on May 31 at the tent where he is camping out beside Buckingham Palace. Hannah McKay/Reuters
Puppet maker Louise Jones puts finishing touches on corgi puppets that will be part of the Jubilee pageant. Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press

At Legoland in Windsor, England, modeller Freya Groom places a figure of the Queen near a model of Admiralty Arch in The Mall.Peter Nicholls/Reuters

What else is going on?

Aside from hundreds of tea parties, picnics and concerts, there are a host of unusual offerings. London’s Southbank Centre has organized a “punk alley” for the Jubilee where patrons can set their inner anarchist free and create their own punk tracks. The centre will also be showing a mini-series on the Sex Pistols – complete with their rendition of God Save the Queen – by filmmaker Danny Boyle.

A corgi café is also opening in London during the weekend, catering to corgi lovers and their pets, and the city will hold a jousting tournament. There’s also a drag queen music bingo in Manchester with “big hair and even bigger prizes, including bar tabs, and songs from the ultimate queens of pop.” Eight towns have been elevated to Jubilee city status, including Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands.

And the Platinum Jubilee pudding competition has been won by Jemma Melvin, a 31-year-old amateur baker. Her lemon Swiss roll and amaretti trifle beat out 5,000 other entries.

Will there be big-name celebrities performing?

A concert on Saturday called the Platinum Party at the Palace will feature Diana Ross, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Duran Duran, George Ezra and, naturally, Queen. Sir David Attenborough will be on stage along with soccer great David Beckham. There will also be performers singing songs from The Phantom of the Opera, Hamilton, The Lion King and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. And the Daleks from Doctor Who will be on display as well as a range of cars from the James Bond movies.

Prince Charles sits by the Imperial State Crown at May 10's ceremonial opening of Parliament, which the Queen normally handles.Ben Stansall/Pool Photo via AP

Will the Queen attend anything?

The Queen’s health has been in question in recent months and she skipped the opening of Parliament earlier in May for the first time since 1963. Buckingham Palace has said that the Queen has “episodic mobility problems.” She has carried out some duties lately and she toured the Chelsea Flower Show last week riding in a motorized buggy.

As for the Jubilee celebrations, Royal officials will only say that “the Queen is looking forward to the weekend” but they won’t confirm what she will attend. She is expected to attend the service at St. Paul’s and she might be at the Epsom Derby on Saturday, where five of her retired thoroughbreds will be featured in a special parade to honour her love of racing. However, she won’t have a shot at winning the derby. Her three horses – Reach the Moon, Educator and General Idea – had to pull out.

The Queen with Prince Andrew and the Duchess and Duke of Sussex in 2018.Matt Dunham/The Associated Press

What about Harry, Meghan and Andrew?

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their children – three-year-old Archie and Lilibet, who will celebrate her first birthday on Saturday – will be in Britain for the Jubilee, although it’s not clear what they will attend. They are expected to join other Royal Family members for the service of thanksgiving in St. Paul’s but they won’t be standing on the balcony at Buckingham Palace during Trooping the Colour. The Queen has restricted access to working Royals only. Her decision also rules out the Duke of York who has had to step back from Royal duties because of his association with Jeffrey Epstein.

Harry and Meghan will join the Queen and other members of the Royal Family in one location: Madame Tussauds wax museum. The museum had separated the couple from its Royal display in 2020 after they left for California. They’ve been reunited for the Jubilee with the Queen, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Grant Harrold, a former butler to the Royal Family, works at a London Eye pod themed as a pub ahead of the jubilee.Toby Melville/Reuters

Who is cashing in?

Pubs are among the biggest winners. They get to stay open to 1 a.m. over the four days, which is two hours longer than normal. The British Beer and Pub Association estimates that 90 million pints will be slung back on the weekend, generating an extra £105-million in revenue, or $168-million.

Many other companies are also trying to cash in on the celebrations with Jubilee-themed products. Mattel has released a Jubilee Barbie and a coffee company called Beanies has come up with Jubilee cake flavoured instant coffee. Around 110,000 bottles of sparkling wine are expected to be picked up on the long weekend, according to wine retailer Majestic. And the Centre for Retail Research has forecast that the British public will spend £408.3-million in total over the holiday, including £281-million on souvenirs.

Royal merchandise at a store in London on May 30.Leon Neal/Getty Images

What about souvenirs?

There’s everything from Jubilee mugs, T-shirts, plates and tea sets. You can also buy a Royal Corgi Mini Skirt; a Queen and Corgi Air Freshener; as well as Queen and corgi salt and pepper shakers. True devotees can buy a life-sized cardboard cut out of the Queen for £34.99. The National Archives is selling commemorative pencils for £2.50 and you can get a Rule Britannia Light-Up Keychain that shines beams of light through the Queen’s eyes.

Among the more novel souvenirs is a collection of tea cups, mugs and plates with a spelling mistake. Roughly 11,000 pieces were made in China and each item was marked “To commemorate the Platinum Jubbly of Queen Elizabeth II.” Instead of scrapping the collection, all of the pieces are being sold online by Wholesale Clearance UK as collectors’ items, for up to £8.89 a piece.

Prince Charles waves in Yellowknife on May 19, the end of a tour timed to the jubilee.PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

What’s happening in Canada and other Commonwealth countries?

There aren’t nearly as many events in Canada, and no four-day long weekend. The federal government also won’t be handing out Jubilee medals this time, like officials did during the Queen’s Silver, Gold and Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The government has contributed $2.14-million in funding for 360 community events. The Monarchist League of Canada is distributing Platinum Jubilee lapel pins that have been issued by the government.

Monarchy’s past and future: More from The Globe and Mail

The Decibel

Why was 2021 the moment Barbados chose to declare itself a republic? Kareem Smith, a reporter for the online publication Barbados Today, spoke with The Decibel about how a younger generation made it happen. Subscribe for more episodes.


Editorial: Canada’s monarchy is here to stay. Embrace it

John Fraser: The Queen may be 96, but that doesn’t mean the end of the monarchy is near

Kris Manjapra: For the Royals, slavery is a family affair. They need to show remorse, not sorrow, for their role in its history

Alex Renton: Racism was a cornerstone of the British Empire, including Canada. Reparative justice can help to right these wrongs

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow the author of this article:

Check Following for new articles