Queen Elizabeth II pulled the curtain on her historic Platinum Jubilee celebrations on Sunday, making a rare public appearance on the last of four days of festivities.
The 96-year-old monarch, haunted by walking and standing problems, appeared twice in person on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on Thursday after the Trooping the Color military parade.
The effort forced her to withdraw from a Friday thanksgiving service, plus the Epsom Derby horse race and a star-studded concert on Saturday.
But she reappeared shortly after a public parade that reflected the changes in music, dance, fashion, culture and society since she came to the throne in 1952.
Huge crowds stretching hundreds of meters (yards) along The Mall outside the palace cheered as she came out on the balcony and waved.
Dressed in green with a matching hat, her white gloved hand clutching a walking stick, she was flanked by the three future kings: Princes Charles, William and George.
Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran closed the pageant earlier with a rendition of his 2017 hit “Perfect” and the national anthem “God Save the Queen”.
The £15 million ($18.7 million, 17.5 million euro) Platinum Jubilee Pageant with some 10,000 people kicked off with a parade of armed forces from the United Kingdom and Commonwealth that it leads.
The Queen’s hologram was projected onto the 260-year-old Gold State Coach of the Sovereign who led the celebration of her record-breaking reign.
Some 6,000 disabled and non-disabled performers from street theatre, carnival and puppetry joined in to celebrate the Queen’s life and reign.
Highlights included an aerial artist suspended under a huge helium balloon, known as a heliosphere, featuring the image of the sovereign.
The carnival included a giant oak tree flanked with maypole dancers, a huge moving wedding cake, bangra drummers, steel bands, plus African-Caribbean carnival animals and a towering dancing dragon.
In the royal box, Charles kept his four-year-old grandson Prince Louis entertained, bouncing on his knees to the beat of the music.
Elsewhere in the country, it is estimated that more than 10 million people have braved cloudy skies to share food with friends, family and neighbors to mark the occasion.
end of the era
Two public holidays on Thursday and Friday, extended pub opening hours, street parties and other events have temporarily lifted the gloom of rising inflation and political unrest, plus two years of forced Covid closures.
Many saw it as a once-in-a-generation event to close an extraordinary chapter in British life and to recognize its most famous national symbol.
On Saturday night, she made a surprising on-screen appearance, drinking tea with beloved children’s book and movie character Paddington Bear.
In the pre-recorded video, she tapped the drum beat of rock band Queen’s “We Will Rock You” — the concert’s opening track — onto a fine china teacup and saucer to get the party started.
A peak of 13.4 million viewers watched the concert on television, according to the BBC.
The Queen previously made a cameo with James Bond actor Daniel Craig for the opening of the 2012 London Olympics.
An ongoing theme is the dramatic social, political and technological changes in Britain and the world since the Queen came to the throne — and her constant presence throughout it all.
With Charles now 73, the next anniversary—probably for his eldest son William’s 25th year on the throne—may be at least 50 years away.
“She’s been the queen all my life,” American John Barli, 66, said on the visit.
“As far as I’m concerned, she’s the grandmother of the world,” he told the Sunday Times.
But there was also recognition that the second Elizabethan era—five centuries after the first—is nearly over.
A spectacular light show lit up the palace and the night sky above on Saturday, depicting a corgi, handbag and teapot.
A message simply said, “Thank you, ma’am.”
“Inevitably this celebration had a parting feeling,” said the Sunday Telegraph of Saturday’s concert, which was crowned by Diana Ross.
“But there is also the keen realization that we will never see such monarchs again.”
“It won’t be the same without our queen,” Manchester’s Julie Blewitt, 56, told AFP outside St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday.
“It’s such a shame she won’t be here much longer.”
The Observer weekly called it “part of a long goodbye that began with her lonely presence at Prince Philip’s funeral last year”.
The queen gradually prepares the public to take over the well-known figure of Charles as king.
The anniversary was “an opportunity to reflect on all that has been accomplished over the past 70 years, as we look to the future with confidence and enthusiasm,” she said in a message on Wednesday.
But the institution that Charles and, after him, William will lead, will be different from the one Elizabeth inherited in the aftermath of World War II.
Back then, Britain was still a major colonial power, but republican movements are gaining momentum in the 14 Commonwealth countries where the Queen is also head of state, including Australia and the Caribbean.
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