The Queen made an appearance for the final act of the Platinum Jubilee on Sunday, waving to crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace in a poignant moment that capped off four days of celebrations to mark the monarch’s historic 70 years on the throne.
It was only the third time the Queen was seen in public during the holiday, after two days of absences following what the Palace said was discomfort during the opening festivities for the Jubilee on Thursday.
The Queen was accompanied on the balcony by her oldest son and heir, Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as well as Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and their three children.
The 96-year-old monarch’s surprise appearance at the end of the Platinum Jubilee Pageant lasted for a few minutes. The event featured a colourful parade that sent military bands and celebrities past the palace doors.
The Gold State Coach that carried the Queen to Westminster Abbey to be crowned in 1953 was one of the highlights of the four-day celebrations. It was seen in public at the pageant for the first time in 20 years after it was used at the Golden Jubilee. The coach featured an archival hologram of Her Majesty, making it seem as if she was inside.
As celebrations came to a close, the Queen said she had been “humbled and deeply touched” by the number of people coming out to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee and thanked people for their support.
“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 in a statement.
In her place for most of the Jubilee events was Prince Charles, creating the sense that the modern Elizabethan era was drawing to a gradual close after 70 years.
Sunday’s events included Big Jubilee Lunches held around the country and an eccentric Platinum Jubilee Pageant, which featured appearances from British celebrities – grouped by decade on double-decker buses – a six-foot wedding cake topped with corgi statuettes, and an enormous puppet dragon, all parading around the Buckingham Palace roundabout. Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran wrapped up the event with the national anthem.
Saturday night’s Jubilee concert also had an eclectic feel, featuring a pre-recorded appearance from the Queen in a short skit with Paddington Bear, and a speech by Prince Charles, who praised the monarch for uniting the country and continuing to make history during her 70-year reign.
There were limited references to the future of the monarchy and Britain in an event that has focused, even revelled, in the patriotic symbolism of the British monarchy.
Fractures and scandals within the Royal Family, too, were discreetly set aside for the long weekend. A focus on “working” members of the family meant that Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, were barely seen in public. They were not present at celebrations on Sunday.
Prince Andrew was also absent, after the Palace said he contracted COVID-19; the Queen’s second son was stripped of his royal duties in January over his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffery Epstein, but only 2½ years after allegations that he had sexually abused a teenaged girl were made public. Andrew has denied the allegations.
Questions about the future of the monarchy under Prince Charles, who is less popular than his mother, were hard to completely avoid. And while the events included regular nods to the diversity of modern Britain, meaningful references to the history or future of the Commonwealth and the remaining British colonies were largely absent.
In the British overseas territory of Bermuda, Thomas Christopher Famous, a member of Parliament and radio talk show host, said the Union Jack bunting on the weekend was largely reserved for government-organized events.
Mr. Famous, a republican backbencher, said views on the monarchy are deeply split on the island. But he said people had watched closely as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were booed on a visit to Belize in March; on a stop in Jamaica, the country’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness told Prince William the country would move toward eliminating the Queen as head of state.
He called the trip a “reality check” for the Royal Family.
“They were of the opinion that the formal colonies are going to roll out the red carpet and everyone is happy, and that the issue of slavery and reparations is a non-issue,” he said.
That doesn’t mean the Royal Family, or the Commonwealth, are disappearing overnight. But amid the bunting and celebrations of the Platinum Jubilee, David Edgerton, a professor of history at King’s College London and the author of The Rise and Fall of the British Nation, warned that a shift could be on the horizon.
“I don’t think we should underestimate the legitimating effect a very long monarch’s life has on the institution,” said Prof. Edgerton. “People will feel a lot freer to criticize Prince Charles than they feel criticizing the Queen.”
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