(London) Having become rare in public due to her deteriorating health, Elizabeth II was cheered by tens of thousands of people on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on Thursday, on the first day of celebrations marking her 70th reign, unprecedented longevity. for the British monarchy.
It was the long-awaited climax to the four-day platinum jubilee festivities of the ultra-popular 96-year-old sovereign, a symbol of stability despite the upheavals the country has been through, appreciated for her tireless dedication, irreproachable neutrality, and her ironic humor.
The Queen, who ascended the throne at the age of 25 on February 6, 1952, when her father George VI died, stepped onto the world’s most famous balcony, dressed in a dove-blue ensemble, leaning motionless on a cane. She was accompanied by the Duke of Kent, a colonel cousin of the Scots Guards, one of the elite regiments of the British Royal Guard, who greeted participants in the annual “Hail to the Colors” military parade.
She returned to the balcony a little later, for a flyover by the Royal Air Force, this time accompanied by members of the Royal Family on official duties and their children. Absent for both Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who attended the parade discreetly from another building, in their first return to the United Kingdom together since their sensational departure from California in 2020. Also missing was Prince Andrew, who paid millions of dollars to put an end to a sexual relationship. assault complain.
For this festivity, a dense crowd, colored with flags and portraits of the Queen, gathered along the Mall, the avenue that leads to the palace.
“It is a unique day, it will not happen again as long as I live: 70 years on the throne,” Peter said, questioned by AFP at the hearing.
“It only happens once in a lifetime”, adds Mark Cornell, who came especially from the north of England, who nevertheless assures that he is not an unconditional fan of the monarchy: “they must reinvent themselves for the new generations”.
On horseback, the heirs of Elizabeth II, Princes Charles, and William paraded in the famous red suit with a long bearskin hat for the traditional annual parade, which brought together more than 1,200 soldiers and hundreds of musicians. Their respective wives, Camilla and Kate, arrived in a carriage with the latter’s three children, George, Charlotte, and Louis.
Never has a British sovereign reigned as long as Elizabeth. It is unlikely that another will achieve such longevity: Charles, the crown prince is 73 years old, and his son William will soon be 40 years old.
For Britons, this jubilee brings a respite and a moment of communion after several years of angst over Brexit and strict COVID-19 lockdowns, now followed by sky-high prices.
Giant bunting, flags, and portraits were hung on streets across the UK. After Thursday’s parade, the Queen is to light a 21-meter-high tree-shaped sculpture in front of Buckingham Palace at night from a distance from Windsor Castle. Then a mass is planned for Friday, a giant concert on Saturday, and above all tens of thousands of popular gatherings, including giant picnics on Sunday.
Charles’ growing role
“I hope that the next few days will be an opportunity to reflect on everything that has been achieved in the last 70 years, looking to the future with confidence and enthusiasm,” the sovereign, head of the country, said in a written message. State of 15 kingdoms, from the United Kingdom to Canada and New Zealand.
Congratulations poured in from around the world, with French President Emmanuel Macron praising his “dedication” to Franco-British “unbreakable friendship”. Even the Irish Republican Party Sinn Fein has highlighted its role in the Northern Ireland peace process, a move long unimagined since the IRA’s former political showcase.
Confirmed Wednesday night by the palace, Elizabeth II’s appearances, which have become rare, are eagerly awaited. Because her health worries her: since a night in the hospital in October she has canceled almost all of her official appearances.
Weakened since the death of her husband Philip last year, she has trouble walking. However, she shows no willingness to back down and has made several surprise appearances recently, smiling and relaxed.
In this end-of-reign environment, the monarchy is facing growing criticism, especially in the former colonies, about the British Empire’s slave-owning past.
In the United Kingdom, the queen is still very much loved by her subjects with 75% favorable opinions according to the YouGov institute, but her heir Charles is much less appreciated (50%). Only 39% of Britons believe that the institution will still exist in 100 years.
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