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Britain celebrates Queen Elizabeth II's 70 years on the throne

The nation holds 4 days of parades, parties and pageantry to salute its longest-serving monarch.

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Britain’s streets are decked out with flags, tea parties have been planned and cakes baked as the country marks Queen Elizabeth II’s unprecedented 70 years on the throne.

The country hailed its highly popular monarch with four days of pageantry and parties as she becomes the first to celebrate an anniversary billed as the Platinum Jubilee.

As the 96-year-old's reign enters what is likely its closing act, after a day of celebration, Buckingham Palace said she would will not attend a National Service of Thanksgiving at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral on Friday.

But the jubilee represents a moment of light for the queen, her family and the nation after two dark years marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, the death of Prince Philip and royal scandals.

What happened today:

  • Celebrations began with the queen’s birthday parade, known as Trooping the Color.
  • A Royal Air Force flypast was watched by crowds in London and four generations of the royal family from the famed Buckingham Palace balcony.
  • Later in the day, more than 2,000 towns and cities in Britain and overseas will light beacons to mark the jubilee.

Queen’s at the heart of the party

Royal Air Force planes screaming through the skies, a military band on horseback, a ceremonial Irish wolfhound named Seamus.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee kicked off Thursday with all the grandeur one would expect from this 1,000-year-old institution. But despite the lavish royal pageantry, there was only one star of the show for the flag-waving crowds lining the streets of the British capital on this warm June day.

There were doubts about how much of the country’s four-day celebration its 96-year-old queen would manage to attend. On Thursday, she was greeted with rapturous cheers and applause as she made two smiling appearances on the famed Buckingham Palace balcony.

Read the full story here.

What to expect for the rest of the long jubilee weekend

After Thursday's big kickoff of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, attention will turn to the final three days of festivites.

Here's what else to expect:

  • A Service of Thanksgiving will take place on Friday morning at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, with prayers, anthems and bible readings. Great Paul, the largest church bell in the country, will be rung at about 11 a.m. local time (6 a.m. ET) — the first time it will be rung for a royal occasion.
  • On Saturday evening there will be a star-studded musical event, the BBC’s Platinum Party at the Palace, will feature musicians including Queen and Adam Lambert, Alicia Keys, and Diana Ross.
  • To cap off the celebrations, Sunday will see nationwide street parties and a massive pageant that will march in the area around Buckingham Palace on Sunday. It will feature the queen’s gold state coach, as well as members of the military from the U.K. and across the Commonwealth. After that, decorated double-decker buses, U.K. celebrities, circus artists and more will make their way along the route to celebrate the queen's 70 years on the throne.

Queen will not attend thanksgiving service, Buckingham Palace says

The queen will not attend a National Service of Thanksgiving at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace said in a statement Thursday.

The monarch considered the “journey and activity” and had “with great reluctance concluded the she will not attend,” the statement said.

It added that she wanted “to thank all those who made today such a memorable occasion.” 

Queen's cousin joined her on the balcony for the military parade

Image: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II stands with Britain's Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, on the Balcony of Buckingham Palace
Britain's Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, joined the queen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for her Platinum Jubilee celebrations.Jonathan Brady / AFP - Getty Images

Perhaps one of the lesser well known royals to join the queen on the balcony of Buckingham Palce was her cousin, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent.

Now, 86, the Duke of Kent served in the British army for 21 years, before he retired in 1976 with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Known for his passionate advocacy for honoring veterans, especially those that fought in World Wars I and II, hze was promoted to Field Marshal in 1993.

But he is perhaps best known for his involvement with the Wimbledon tennis championships. As President of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club since 1969, each summer he presents the winners’ trophies to the champions at the end of the tournament.

With his wife of 60-years, Katharine, Duchess of Kent, he has three children,   George, Earl of St Andrews, 59; Lady Helen Taylor, 58, and Lord Nicholas Windsor, 51.

A dessert fit for the queen: U.K. has an official 'Platinum Pudding'

LONDON — Proof that this jubilee will be a very British combination of old and new lies in the layers of Jemma Melvin’s “Platinum Pudding,” which beat almost 5,000 rivals in a special bake off to find an official dessert to mark the occasion.

Her winning entry is a seven-layer lemon swiss roll and amaretti trifle, a modern twist on a traditional dish that dates back to the 1700s. 

Platinum Jubilee
“I wanted it to be easy to make,” Melvin, 31, told NBC News earlier this month. “I wanted it to be summery." celebrations. James Manning / PA Images via Getty Images

Organizers hope people across the country might serve the winning dessert at the thousands of street parties being held as part of this week’s celebrations.

Read the full story here.

Sex Pistols re-release 'God Save the Queen,' praise the jubilee

The Associated Press

Alexander Smith and The Associated Press

They may have ranted that the royals were a “fascist regime” and said the queen “ain’t no human being,” but the punk icons the Sex Pistols appear to have mellowed since releasing the countercultural anthem “God Save the Queen” during the monarch’s 1977 Silver Jubilee.

The band has re-released the song as a potentially lucrative tie-in for the queen's Platinum Jubilee. But now, all in their 60s, its members appear to have lost some of the anti-establishment swagger that made the song such a hit.

“I mean, it’s entertaining stuff," Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones told The Associated Press of the four-day event. "Tourists just absolutely love it.”

Sex Pistols singer John Lydon, then known as Johnny Rotten, recently told the broadcaster Talk TV he was “really, really proud of the queen for surviving and doing so well.”

Prince Louis steals the show on palace balcony

Image: Queen Elizabeth II  Prince Louis
Daniel Leal / AFP - Getty Images

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II’s face was full of smiles during the Royal Air Force flypast, the centerpiece of Thursday’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, but it was one of her great-grandsons who stole the show.

Prince Louis, the youngest child of Prince William and his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, had no problem showing his emotions while standing next to the queen, and was seen fidgeting, covering his eyes, holding his head in his hands and resting his chin throughout the ceremony on Buckingham Palace’s balcony.

But it was an image of the 4-year-old holding his ears, with his mouth wide open, that took off on social media, quickly achieving meme-status.

Read the full story here.

Prince Andrew tests positive for Covid, will not attend queen's thanksgiving service

Prince Andrew has tested positive for Covid and will not attend Saturday's jubilee service of thanksgiving for the queen at London's St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace said in a statement.

“After undertaking a routine test the Duke has tested positive for Covid and with regret will no longer be attending tomorrow’s service,” the statement said.

Andrew was stripped of his military affiliations and royal patronages in January after his lawyers failed to persuade a U.S. judge to dismiss a civil lawsuit that accused him of sexual abuse.

The following month, he reached a legal settlement with Virginia Giuffre who alleges she was 17 when she was sexually abused by him.

Not everyone is joining in the royal razzmatazz

While jubilee fever may seem ubiquitous, there are plenty of people in Britain and its former colonies who won't be celebrating. #AbolishtheMonarchy was trending on British Twitter on Thursday morning, backed by the anti-royal campaign group Republic.

It's not just ardent anti-monarchists left cold, however. Last month, the pollster YouGov found more than half of Britons, 56 percent, said they wouldn't be celebrating the jubilee — and only 14 percent said they definitely would.

The queen herself remains popular among around three-quarters of Brits, polls consistently show. But fewer than two-thirds say they want to keep the monarchy, with more than 1 in 5 saying they want to replace it with an elected head of state, YouGov found in a survey this week.

Prince Charles is far less popular than his mother, and many experts say his ascension to the throne will be a moment of extreme uncertainty for the future of the royals. Anti-royal disquiet is bubbling in Britain's former colonies across the Caribbean, with young people in particular demanding reparations for the monarchy's historic links to the slave trade.

Scientists, soccer stars and actors among royal honors recipients

"Homeland" actor Damian Lewis and AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot are among some 1,100 people on the queen's birthday honors list.

The honors are doled out on the queen's ceremonial birthday June 11 (her actual birthday is April 21, but she gets another one for official events to coincide with the good weather). Most are given out for public service.

Other recipients include England soccer star Rio Ferdinand and Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, for her work in the arts.

Next generation of royals takes on more responsibilities at jubilee

Creative ways to watch through the jubilee crowds

Biden, first lady wish queen a 'joyful' Platinum Jubilee

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden wished Queen Elizabeth II a "joyful Platinum Jubilee celebration" on Thursday, crediting the monarch for her role in deepening the relationship between the two countries throughout her reign.

"For 70 years, you've inspired people with your selfless devotion and service to the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth," Biden said in a video message shared on Twitter.

"And throughout your reign, the relationship between the United Kingdom and United States has grown stronger and closer than ever."

82-gun salute fired in honor of queen's jubilee

An 82-gun salute was fired in honor of the queen as part of Thursday's Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery began firing the 82-gun salute in London's Hyde Park at around 12:52 p.m. local time (7:52 a.m. ET).

Image: 82 Gun Salute
Niklas Halle'n / AFP - Getty Images

The display was followed by a second 124-gun salute from the Tower of London, with an extra 42 for the city of London.

A gun salute is typically used to mark special occasions, including royal celebrations. A 21-gun salute is most common. However, additional guns are added when the salute is given from a royal park and from a royal fortress, such as the Tower of London, where additional shots are also added, representing the loyalty of residents of the city of London, according to Britain's ministry of defense.

A view of the flypast from among the huge crowds

Crowds watch royal balcony moment from the Mall

Aaron Chown / Pool via AP

No Harry or Meghan on palace balcony

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, were not among the royals who gathered on the Buckingham Palace balcony to watch the Royal Air Force flypast this morning.

Only working royals were invited, so the couple and Prince Andrew were not included in the day's highlight moment.

‘Cheeky’ Prince Louis steals the show in royal balcony moment

Queen, family appear on palace balcony to watch Royal Air Force flypast

The queen and other royals just watched a flypast by the Royal Air Force from the famed balcony of Buckingham Palace.

The event is the centerpiece of the opening day of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations and her appearance on the balcony was met with cheers from the watching crowds.

More than a dozen other royals lined up alongside the queen, including Prince Charles, Prince William and his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Image: Royal family
Alastair Grant / AP

Crowds flock to the Mall to watch the flypast and royal balcony appearance

Image: fly-past over Buckingham Palace
Paul Ellis / Pool via AFP - Getty Images

Queen makes 1st appearance at celebrations from Buckingham Palace balcony

Queen Elizabeth II has appeared in public for the first time since the start of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Image: Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee
Jonathan Brady / Pool via AP

The queen, 96, appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace alongside the Duke of Kent to receive a salute from parading troops after they took part in the Trooping the Color ceremony.

She traditionally takes the salute on the ground but this year that duty was performed by her son Prince Charles.

Trooping the Color kick-starts queen's Platinum Jubilee

Americans among the crowds in London

Crowds watch Trooping the Color on a big screen in a park adjacent to the Mall in London.
Crowds watch Trooping the Color on a big screen in a park adjacent to the Mall in London.Yuliya Talmazan / NBC News

Among the crowds watching the Trooping the Color on a big screen in London's St. James' Park were Kristin Allen from Philadelphia and her aunt from Arizona, Becky Hopkins, 79.

Sitting on a lawn chair and enjoying some snacks, Allen said she has been in the U.K. since Sunday to visit some family but also “absolutely for the queen’s jubilee.” She added that she enjoyed “the pomp and circumstance of it all.”

“This will probably be the queen’s last one,” said Allen, 48. “And we love the little George, Charlotte and Louis,” she said, referring to the the children of Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Prince Charles takes royal salute in queen's place

Prince Charles, the queen's first son and heir, has taken the royal salute on behalf of the monarch to close the Trooping the Color ceremony.

Charles rode on horseback and wore his red Colonel of the Welsh Guards uniform. He was joined by Prince William and Princess Anne, also in uniform and mounted.

Jonathan Brady / AFP - Getty Images

It's a significant break from tradition because the salute is usually taken by the queen. Now 96 and suffering health problems in recent months, she will take a second salute from the balcony of Buckingham Palace once some of the troops return there after the parade.

How the queen rode to her first birthday parade as monarch

While the queen may not be on the ground herself today, she has previously traveled to the parade on horseback, as she did during the first parade of her reign in 1952. Trooping the Color itself has marked the monarch's ceremonial summer birthday for more than 260 years.

Trooping the Colour

'It's iconic to be here'

Leila Sackur

At Wellington Arch in London’s Green Park — a short walk from Buckingham Palace — Aimee, 35, says she came out to watch what she assumes will be the queen’s last jubilee. 

“It’s iconic to be here,” said Aimee, who works in recruitment and lives locally in Greater London (although she hails from Australia).

“It just feels sad because this is the last time we’ll be saying ‘God save the Queen,’ after this it will be ‘God save the King’ for three generations.”

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee is ‘undeniably a moment in history’

Animal Rebellion protesters behind Trooping the Color disruption

Animal rights activist group Animal Rebellion has said its members were behind a protest that briefly disrupted the queen’s birthday parade, known as Trooping the Color.

In a statement, the group said 25 Animal Rebellion supporters had disrupted the event to "demand a plant-based future and rewilding of royal land."

"The Crown is one of the largest landholders in The U.K. and has had decades to transition to plant-based farming and rewilding but has chosen not to," the group said.

A number of protesters could be seen being dragged away by officers during the procession.

Where are Harry and Meghan?

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, are not due to appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on Thursday. However, they are in attendance.

The couple and their two children traveled from the United States for the Platinum Jubilee. They were invited to watch the queen's Trooping the Color birthday parade from the Major General's Office at the palace.

Royals of different generations attend Trooping the Color

Image: Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee 2022 - Trooping The Colour
Chris J Ratcliffe / Getty Images

Princess Anne rode horseback while the Cambridge children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, traveled in a horse-drawn carriage.

Image: Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee 2022 - Trooping The Colour
Ian Vogler / Getty Images

Trooping the Color begins — but with a difference

Trooping the Color, an opulent military parade involving more than 1,000 troops and hundreds of horses, has kicked off the week's jubilee celebrations at Horse Guards Parade in London.

Image: Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee 2022 - Trooping The Colour
Prince William and Prince Charles ride horseback during the Trooping the Color parade. Chris J Ratcliffe / Getty Images

But for the first time, this year the queen will not be inspecting the troops and receiving the "royal salute" on the ground herself. Now 96, the monarch has suffered with ill-health, including what the palace calls "episodic mobility problems" in recent months, canceling a slew of events at short notice.

Prince Charles will receive the salute and inspect troops of the Household Division. He is joined by Prince William and Princess Anne. When the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and the Guards return to Buckingham Palace just up the street, the queen will receive another salute from the balcony, according to a statement from the palace.

Camilla, Kate, kids arrive at Platinum Jubilee festivities

Royals arrive for jubilee opening in front of London crowds

Britain's Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince George travel in a horse-drawn carriage to attend the queen's birthday parade, Trooping the Color.Ben Stansall / AFP - Getty Images

Pope Francis sends queen 'cordial greetings and good wishes'

The pope, the head of the Catholic Church, sent the queen, who is the head of the Church of England, a jubilee telegram, which has been published by the Holy See.

The pontiff said he prayed that God would bestow upon the royal family and the British people "blessings of unity, prosperity and peace."

Trooping the Color set to begin

Image: Queen's Birthday Parade
The Band of the Welsh Guards on its way to Trooping the Color.Chris Jackson / AFP - Getty Images

The traditional Trooping the Color military parade is set to start in London. Members of the royal family will arrive shortly to watch the event.

Protesters interrupt Trooping the Color

Police dragged away at least two protesters who jumped over the barriers on the Mall and sat down in the way of the start of the Trooping the Color parade. It was not clear what was behind the protest.

What to expect Thursday from the Platinum Jubilee

Here’s what to expect on the opening day of the celebrations:

  • The traditional Trooping the Color is opening the proceedings at Horse Guards Parade, down the street from Buckingham Palace.
  • Members of the royal family will arrive in carriages to watch the event at about 11 a.m. local time (6 a.m. ET), then return to Buckingham Palace after the parade.
  • At about 1 p.m. local time (8 a.m. ET), working members of the royal family will appear on the palace balcony to watch a Royal Air Force flypast.
  • More than 2,000 towns and cities in Britain and overseas will light beacons to mark the jubilee at around 9 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET.) The main event will take place at Buckingham Palace with the lighting of the “Tree of Trees” sculpture and projections onto the front of the palace.

Tributes begin to come in from world leaders

French President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett are among the first world leaders to pay homage to the queen today.

Speaking in English, Macron said in a video message that the queen was a rare constant between the two European neighbors amid seven decades of change and upheaval. He described her as "the golden thread that binds our two countries."

Bennett tweeted his "heartfelt congratulations" on the queen's 70 years of "dedicated service which she continues to undertake with dignity and grace."

Opening event of Platinum Jubilee will see 96-year-old queen break with tradition

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II will break with decades of tradition at the opening of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Rather than take the salute from parading military members on the ground, she will receive a salute from the balcony of Buckingham Palace, the palace said in a statement.

The “Trooping the Color” — involving more than 1,500 officers and soldiers and 350 horses from the army’s Household Division — will take place as normal at Horse Guards Parade, less than a mile from Buckingham Palace. 

But this year, Elizabeth, 96, will not attend the long ceremony. Instead, Prince Charles will take the salute and inspect the troops on his mother’s behalf, the statement said. He will be joined by his son Prince William and sister, Princess Anne, it added. Other members of the royal family will also watch, it said.   

Read the full story here.

Crowds line London parade route hours before jubilee events kick off

LONDON — Thousands of people streamed toward Buckingham Palace in central London early on this sunny Thursday.

Many turned up hours before the first jubilee event to grab their spots close to the Mall, an iconic roadway leading up to the palace where a parade procession will take place to kick off the four days of festivities.

There were smiles abound and a jovial mood in the air after what has been a tough period for the country.

BEN STANSALL / AFP - Getty Images

Some were decked out in Union Jack-themed hats and shirts, while others wore tiaras and even ballgowns to celebrate the queen. Many came equipped with lawn chairs and blankets, having breakfast by the metal barricades erected along the parade route. By 8 a.m., there were already four to five rows of spectators lining the route, tightly guarded by hundreds of security and police officers.

Nearly all storefronts around central London were also decked out in celebratory bunting as the country unites in a rare show of national pride.

Queen honors past, present and future with jubilee message

The queen has kicked off the long jubilee weekend with a message thanking everyone involved in marking the occasion. She said it was a moment to reflect on the achievements during her 70-year reign, and hoped the country could "look to the future with confidence and enthusiasm."

To mark the event a new portrait of the monarch has been released:

Ranald Mackechnie / Royal Communications

New Zealand marks Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with 21-gun salute

Super fans camp out to celebrate Queen's legacy close-up

LONDON — Royal superfans have been camped out in tents by Buckingham Palace for days leading up to the festivities. Among those in the prime spots closest to the action was Mary-Jane Willows, 69, from Cornwall and fellow royal follower Donna Werner, 70, who traveled all the way from Connecticut to celebrate the Queen’s legacy.

“She has never faltered, she has never waivered, she has never made a wrong step,” Willows said. “I think she is a role model for all of us.” 

Friends Mary-Jane Willows and Donna Werner came to London for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations from different corners of the world.
Friends Mary-Jane Willows and Donna Werner came to London for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations from different corners of the world. Yuliya Talmazan / NBC News

The two friends met  at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011 and have been attending royal events together ever since. For Willows, braving the chilly London nights sleeping on a tiny mattress was worth it to celebrate this anniversary.

“[The Queen] has given her service every day of the year for 70 years. We are here for one weekend to say the best way we can — ‘thank you,’” Willows, 69, said.

Also among the well-wishers were mother and daughter Lin Quinn and Lucy Edwards who were enjoying their high tea with a glass of champagne. The pair traveled about 100 miles from Bristol to be there.

Mother and daughter Lin Quinn and Lucy Edwards, from Bristol, about 100 miles east of London, were among the royal super fans who have been camping out by the palace for days.
Mother and daughter Lin Quinn and Lucy Edwards, from Bristol, about 100 miles east of London, were among the royal super fans who have been camping out by the palace for days. Yuliya Talmazan / NBC News

“It’s such an amazing thing that if you stayed at home and watched it on TV, it’s not as good as being at the real thing, being part of it,” said Quinn, 72, wearing a headband with two small Union Jacks. 

She and her four siblings attended the queen’s coronation in 1952, Quinn said, but she has little recollection of it as she was very young. She said the Queen deserves all the attention and the “special treatment” for the commitment she has shown to her people. “She has given it everything,” she added. 

Edwards, 50, said camping out is worth it because “a celebration like this won’t happen again.”

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in miniature created in Lego bricks

A big royal party for Britain's much-loved monarch

Photo illustration of 12 photos of Queen Elizabeth II throughout her life. A strip of British flags are drawn along the top.
Joanna Neborsky for NBC News / PNA Rota/ Tim Graham Photo Library / Bettmann / Press Association / Getty Images / AP Keystone / Hulton Archive

LONDON — Few nations have thrown a party like this. 

Queen Elizabeth II is the world’s third-longest serving monarch in recorded history, and the longest of any British or female sovereign. On the throne since 1952 — a time closer to the Statue of Liberty’s completion than it is to the present day — she has become an unshakable emblem of British soft power and perhaps the nation’s most recognizable celebrity around the world.

The four-day festival of royal pageantry and public partying will see the country celebrate the queen’s 70-year reign for what may be the final time on such a grand national stage.

Read the full story here.

Queen makes Britain great, well-wishers waiting for Platinum Jubilee say

What is Trooping the Color?

The queen’s birthday parade, known as Trooping the Color, will kick off the four-day Platinum Jubilee festivities.

This annual event has now marked the official birthday of the British Sovereign for over 260 years, though it hasn't been held in public since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Celebrated in June, the parade traditionally marches down The Mall, the street that runs from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards Parade, the ceremonial parade ground located just over half a mile away. The grand display of military pageantry will this year include more than 1,200 officers and soldiers as well as hundreds of Army musicians and around 240 horses.

The Duke Of Cambridge Leads The Colonel's Review
Tristan Fewings / Getty Images

Members of the royal family traditionally make their way down The Mall in open carriages, waving to the gathered crowds before the queen inspects the troops and takes a salute at the parade ground. This year however, there will be one big change. For just the second time in her 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth will not take the salute on the ground during the parade, instead receiving a salute from the palace balcony.

4 days of celebrations to celebrate 70 years on the throne

Four days of events are scheduled to take place across Britain to mark the 70th anniversary of the queen's reign.

Britons are getting an extra day off work this year to mark the celebration, in addition to the traditional end of May holiday that was moved to this Thursday to make it an extra long weekend.

Central London will, of course, be the hub of the festivities, but street parties and big screens are being set up across the nation to celebrate the widely popular monarch.