LONDON: Millions of Britons and tourists braved dark grey weather across Britain Sunday to organise street parties as Queen Elizabeth II led a spectacular 1000-strong flotilla on River Thames in London as part of Diamond Jubilee celebrations to mark 60 years of her reign.
Many royal enthusiasts who arrived in London from various parts of the country and abroad camped along the Thames overnight to occupy vantage positions to watch Sunday’s Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, the highlight of the celebrations, over a seven-mile stretch.
There were reports of hundreds of passengers being stranded at train stations en route to London due to overcrowded trains heaving with royal enthusiasts heading for the pageant. The pageant is one of several events planned for the extended weekend until 5 June.
Sixth in the pageant order was an Indian music group comprising 50 musicians from the Shree Muktajeevan Pipe Band and Shree Muktajeevan Dhol Academy, who played a mixture of traditional Indian melodies, Scottish tunes and Bollywood anthems on bagpipes and percussion.
Pageant organisers say there is a history of royalty using the Thames for royal celebrations in spectacular style, including Anne Boleyn’s Coronation in 1533, an extravagant pageant for King Charles II and Queen Catherine of Braganza in 1662 and a flamboyant musical event held in 1717 by King George I.
Anti-monarchy group Republic organised a peaceful demonstration near City Hall, calling for a democratically elected head of state, instead of a monarchy that is “expensive, unaccountable and a drag on our democratic process”.
The pageant was said to be the biggest collection of historic vessels ever assembled on the Thames.
The oldest boat in the flotilla was built in 1740, and one of the vessels taking part, the Amazon, also took part in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, in 1897.
Besides the nearly a million-strong gathering along the River Thames, millions more watched proceedings on large screens put up across London and other towns for live telecast of the pageant and other Diamond Jubilee events. In London, the large viewing screens were located at Chelsea Embankment, Grosvenor Road, Milbank, Lambeth Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Victoria Embankment and Blackfriars Bridge.
Roads were closed along the River Thames. Nearly 10,000 streets were also closed in towns across the UK as residents organised street parties to celebrate the occasion.
Street parties have a long history in the UK, but the event took off on a large scale in 1919, when they were held as ‘Peace Teas’ to celebrate the signing of the Versailles peace treaty after the First World War. PTI
There were also reports of Diamond Jubilee celebrations being held in Commonwealth countries.