Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Sapphire Queen: Elizabeth II's landmarks, the Diamond Jubilee

The Queen during her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012
(photo Wiki Commons)

Just five years ago, the Diamond Jubilee floated into view and set everything sparkling. We had flotillas, we had beacons, we had dinners filled with monarchs, we had street parties. We even had the Queen and James Bond (yes, that was the Olympics but we were all so excited by then they blended into one). Most of all, we had water. Elizabeth the Second celebrated her Diamond Jubilee with quite a lot of the style of Elizabeth the First, taking to the water throughout the whole event. Settle back and enjoy this trip down (recent) memory lane as the final landmark ahead of the Sapphire celebrations is a look at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

It's rare to see the Queen on the actual anniversary of her accession, as she prefers to spend the day in quiet reflection - it is also the anniversary of the death of her father. But on February 6th 2012, she was out and about in Kings Lynn in Norfolk as a huge wave of public affection and support began to build in this special Jubilee year.

Also in February, religious leaders from across the UK gathered at Lambeth Palace for a multi faith reception in honour of the Queen's Jubilee.

The celebrations in the UK began in May with the Diamond Jubilee Pageant. The World Comes to Windsor celebrated the Queen's love of horses and her extensive travels and was a nod to previous Jubilee tours as well as a reminder that this time round, the task of celebrating this special anniversary around the Commonwealth would fall to other members of her family as they undertook tours for the Diamond Jubilee on behalf of the Queen.

It might have been a major moment of royal history but the big regal celebration, in May, was informal. The Queen invited twenty or so sovereigns to Windsor Castle for lunch with her family joining her as well.  That's what you call a party.  The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall entertained many of them to dinner at Buckingham Palace that same night - this was really a Jubilee to remember.

The main events for the Diamond Jubilee, like those for the Silver and Gold before it, took place in June. An extra Bank Holiday was added to the calendar meaning a long weekend for many to celebrate with the Diamond Queen. Happy Days. The centrepiece of the celebrations was the Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant on June 3rd 2012 when hundreds of little boats took to the river to celebrate Elizabeth II who sailed amongst them on a golden barge called the Spirit of Chartwell.

Involving boats from around the UK, it was watched from the banks of the Thames by over one million people, despite the heavy rain.  

Hundreds of thousands enjoyed that most Jubilee of events, the street party. Flowers decked streets, bunting decked trees, there was cake, there were sandwiches and most of all there was happiness.

The wet weather was blamed by some for the infection which laid Prince Philip low afterwards, meaning he would miss the rest of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

The Queen had the Prince of Wales by her side the following day, June 4th, for the Diamond Jubilee Concert at the front of Buckingham Palace.  Attended by 10,000 people, it celebrated the six decades of the Queen's reign.

The final day of the celebrations, June 5th, saw the Queen and her family head to St Paul's Cathedral for a National Service of Thanksgiving.

Sparkling in diamond white, the Queen was cheered through the streets on her way to and from the service as huge crowds turned out to enjoy this last part of the Jubilee.

It all ended  with an appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony where the Queen looked almost overcome by the massive crowds and their support for her.

The year would end with the announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were expecting their first baby - the Diamond Queen had secured her dynasty into another generation and moved into the future with a line of succession that is set to reach into the 22nd century.

There will be no Jubilee this year but that hasn't stopped the celebrations. Throughout her reign, the way the Queen has marked the milestones of her life has helped shape her rule, her image and her legacy. We are so used now to commemorating this magic moments in an historic reign that even without a formal structure or official bidding, the Sapphire Jubilee has taken shape in the popular imagination and added its name to the Queen's story. This look back at the milestones of the Queen's reign (see them all on the special page here) is just a taster of more to come. Let's celebrate the Sapphire Queen and look forward to the next landmark of Elizabeth II.

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