Elizabeth II on the balcony to launch her historic platinum jubilee
Eva Deschamps / June 2, 2022
The eyes of the world are on the balcony of Buckingham Palace as Elizabeth II launches her 70th anniversary celebrations on Thursday, an unprecedented longevity celebrated at a time of transition for the British monarchy. Pennants, flags and giant portraits have been hung in the streets of the United Kingdom and fans of the royal family have pitched their tents in London to be in the front row of the platinum jubilee of the most famous monarch on the planet, whose health is now declining. In a country that has spent several years tearing itself apart over Brexit, has been hit hard by Covid-19 and its strict confinements, and is currently experiencing a price spike, the four days offer a welcome respite.
I hope the next few days will be an opportunity to reflect on all that has been achieved over the past 70 years, while looking forward to the future with confidence and enthusiasm, said the 96-year-old sovereign, head of state of 15 kingdoms from the United Kingdom to Canada to New Zealand, in a written message. No British monarch has ever reigned for so long. It is unlikely that another will reach such a longevity: Charles, the crown prince is 73 years old, his son William soon 40 years.
Opening a long weekend of parades, popular festivals and concerts, the celebrations begin Thursday with the traditional annual Salute to the Colours military parade, which Charles will inspect on horseback, as his mother once did, before an aerial flyover. The monarch is scheduled to appear twice briefly on one of the world's most famous balconies, where the British royal family has marked major events since the 19th century. At her side, the family will be limited to members who have official functions and their children. Exit therefore Prince Harry and Meghan, who will attend the parade from another building for their first return together to the UK since their fractious departure to California in 2020. Also missing will be Prince Andrew, who paid millions of dollars to end a sexual assault claim.
Confirmed only Wednesday evening by the palace, the appearances of Elizabeth II, now rare, are very expected. Her health is a cause for concern: since a night in hospital in October, she has cancelled almost all her official appearances, replaced by Charles, including for the first time in May for the Speech from the Throne in Parliament. Frail, she has difficulty walking and relies on a cane. She is a very religious woman who promised at the age of 21 to devote her whole life to the service of the British people. She has made several surprise appearances recently, smiling and relaxed, notably at the famous Chelsea Flower Show in London, in an electric cart. In this end-of-reign atmosphere, the monarchy has gone through several crises in recent years and is facing growing criticism, especially in the former colonies, regarding the British Empire's slave-owning past. After Barbados last year, Jamaica has indicated that it wants to cut the cord with the crown and become a republic.
In the United Kingdom, the Queen remains very popular with 75% of favourable opinion according to the YouGov institute but her heir Charles is much less appreciated (50%). According to YouGov, 62% of the British people want to see the monarchy continue but the 18-24 years old are divided (33% for, 31% against). And only 39% of Britons think that the institution will still exist in 100 years. In this period of questioning, the jubilee celebrations bring a parenthesis centered on the personality of the Queen, who intends to mark her presence. After the balcony of Buckingham, she will participate in the evening in a ceremony with illuminations from Windsor Castle, outside London, where she now resides. On Friday, a mass will be held at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, this time with the entire family, including Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, and Prince Andrew. On Saturday, the Queen will miss the prestigious Epsom Derby, according to the press, despite her passion for these horse races. A big concert - that the queen should watch on TV - will follow at Buckingham Palace in the evening, with 22,000 people, and among the headliners Alicia Keys, Queen + Adam Lambert, Diana Ross.