LONDON (AFP) – A raucous, colorful street contest celebrating the life of Queen Elizabeth II and highlighting Britain’s diversity paraded in central London on Sunday, the last day of the weekend to honor the Queen’s 70 years on the throne. Thousands of people took to the streets of London, and many spoke with excitement and pride about their Queen and their country.
Royal fans are hoping seeing another glimpse of the 96-year-old at Buckingham Palace, where the show ends, may get their wish. The royal flag was raised above the palace, suggesting that the king might greet the crowds with a second appearance on the balcony.
Known as the royal standard, the flag is raised over one of the palaces only when the Queen is in residence.
The Queen only appeared in public on Thursday during the splendid four-day platinum jubilee period, with officials saying she felt “uncomfortable” during the events. Elizabeth has scaled back her schedule in recent months due to mobility issues.
Sunday’s beauty pageant began with a spectacular military parade in which 200 horses marched through the mall to Buckingham Palace. They surrounded the Golden State Coach, a golden chariot that took the Queen to her coronation 69 years ago. A virtual version of her, taken from an archival video of her coronation in 1953, was projected into the windows of a bus.
After the pomp and processions, came a mix of acts celebrating the diversity of modern Britain and the Commonwealth, from hip-hop and Bollywood dancers to drag queens and Mardi Gras style floats. About 6,000 artists walked along a three-kilometre (nearly two miles) road lined with a sea of Union flags, telling the story of the Queen’s life with dances, vintage cars, vibrant costumes, carnival music and giant puppets.
Here were some of Britain’s most famous cultural exports, from the Daleks in “Doctor Who” to James Bond’s Aston Martins. Celebrities including singer Cliff Richard danced and sang from open-top double-decker buses intended to represent the sights and sounds of each decade of the 1950s.
“It’s such an honor to be a part of this, we have the best queen in the world, right? The best in the world,” said Warren Jobson, the biker who took part in the show.
Organizers say the competition is expected to be watched by 1 billion people around the world. To conclude, celebrities including singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran will perform “God Save The Queen” outside Buckingham Palace – with many hoping the Queen and her family will appear on another balcony to cap off the weekend of festivities.
The keenest Royal fans braved the wet and cold weather and camped out at the mall overnight to secure the best view of the competition. Some of them came for the celebrities who would perform, others wanted to be part of a historical moment.
“It’s part of history, and it’s never going to happen again. It’s something special, so if you’re going to do it you have to go big or come home,” said Shawn Wallen, 50.
The Queen did not join her family at the Royal Trust to watch the competition. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan also took their first family trip to the UK since they gave up royal duties and moved to the US in 2020. The couple stayed largely out of the limelight during their platinum jubilee events.
The Queen delighted the country when she appeared in a surprise comedy video that opened Saturday with a concert in front of Buckingham Palace. In the video, the King has tea with the computer-animated Paddington Bear She revealed that, just like the furry character, she was biased towards marmalades and liked to keep them in her handbag.
Diana Ross and rock band Queens headlined the star-studded tribute party Saturday night, which also featured Rod Stewart, Doran Duran, Alicia Keys and Andrea Bocelli.
Prince Charles, the Queen’s eldest son and heir to the throne, has highlighted his mother’s role as a symbol of unity and stability through the decades.
“Your Majesty, Mother,” said Charles, addressing the Queen, “you are laughing and crying with us, and most importantly, you have been there for us all these seventy years.”
On Sunday, Charles and his wife Camilla mingled with the crowds at The Oval Cricket Ground in London for the “Great Jubilee Lunch”. Likewise, millions across the country have set long tables, balloons, and picnic fare for street parties and similar national barbecues.
Joe Kearney, Srdjan Nedelijkovic, and Maria Grazia Moro contributed to this report.
Follow all the AP stories about Britain’s royal family at https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii.
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