Elizabeth II was cheered by a cheering crowd on the first day of her historic jubilee

“The Queen! The Queen!” cried the cheering crowd as Elizabeth II appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, eagerly awaited by tens of thousands of Brits who had come to celebrate her, perhaps for the “last time”. Perched on lampposts, armed with binoculars, perched on a parent’s shoulders, or simply hunched up on tiptoe, young and old alike flocked to The Mall, a majestic tree-lined artery leading to the Palace, hoping to catch a glimpse the 96-year-old sovereign with declining health, whose appearances are infrequent.

When she finally arrives at the end of the traditional Salute to the Colors military parade, dressed all in blue and leaning on a cane, cheers erupt. Flags in the national colors, showing his likeness, wave frantically and cell phones are held at arm’s length to capture a few souvenirs. On the first of four days of celebration of the 70th anniversary of the reign of Elizabeth II, many spectators had settled down early in the morning under the bright sun.

“I saw the Queen on the balcony!” enthuses Jenny Lynn Taylor, 38, a UK-based American who works in marketing. “I had never seen her personally,” she added when asked by AFP, “proud” to take part in this “historic event”: she already shows 70 years of reign and “our children will not even know this monarchy”. “I love her, she’s amazing. She’s dedicated her whole life to her duty, more than any of us,” intervened her friend Kate Asplin, 30, communications manager.

Also read: The British say goodbye to their queen

Without Harry and Meghan

A good half hour later, the cheering doubled as Elizabeth II returned to the famous red-cloaked balcony for an aerial survey of the Royal Air Force, this time with the working members of the royal family, including her son Crown Prince Charles and his grandson William in uniform, along with their wives and children.

Absent are Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who discreetly attended the parade from another building, on their first return to the UK together since their sensational departure from California in 2020. Also missing is Prince Andrew, the million dollar end paid a sexual assault charge.

But more than the royal family, the Queen had made the journey. Because this platinum anniversary is unprecedented in the UK. When she died on February 6, 1952 after the death of her father George VI. ascended the throne at the age of 25, Elizabeth II was the first in the thousand-year history of this monarchy to have enjoyed such a long reign. His successors are unlikely to beat his record: Charles is 73, his son William will soon be 40.

“She will be hard to replace”

“The Queen’s Jubilee comes only once in a lifetime. It’s the only time you can see it, it’s quite moving (…), magical,” says web developer Aude-Marine Danede, a 30-year-old French woman who is “fascinated” by the monarchy. “This may be the last time we see Her Majesty attend a public event, we want to show our gratitude,” said Gilbert Falconer, 65, from Scotland. “She will be difficult to replace.”

Liam Roddis, 49, a local authority worker in northern England, wore a Union Jack-printed suit and came to express his “pride” in the face of a queen he sees as a symbol of stability. “She got us out of a lot of difficult times, she is leading us in the right direction.”

Also read: Elizabeth II, the equation with 1000 unknowns

A little disappointed that Elizabeth isn’t checking on the troops – a task left to Prince Charles because of his mobility issues – David Hare arrived “to celebrate with[his]queen”. “I’ve been to all the (royal) weddings and sometimes stayed the night,” explains this very patriotic 61-year-old Pruner, a Union Jack jacket slung over his shoulders. But it is also a welcome change and “just nice to be able to celebrate the next four days” in these difficult times, which are characterized by “Covid and this very sad war in Ukraine”.

No will to abdicate

“I hope that the next few days will be an opportunity to reflect on all that has been achieved over the past 70 years, while looking to the future with confidence and enthusiasm,” said the Sovereign, the head of the country a written communication State of 15 kingdoms, from the United Kingdom through Canada to New Zealand. Congratulations poured in from around the world, with French President Emmanuel Macron hailing his “commitment” to Franco-British “unwavering friendship”. Even the Irish Republican Party, Sinn Féin, has highlighted its role in Northern Ireland’s peace process, a move long unthinkable from the IRA’s former political showcase.

Also read: The reign of Elizabeth II in six moments

Confirmed by the palace on Wednesday evening, the appearances of Elizabeth II, which have become rare, are eagerly awaited. Because her health is worried: since a night in the hospital in October, she has canceled almost all of her official appearances. Debilitated since the death of her husband Philip last year, she has difficulty walking. However, she shows no willingness to back down and has made several surprise appearances lately, smiling and relaxed.

In this atmosphere of the end of rule, the monarchy, especially in the former colonies, is confronted with growing criticism of the British Empire’s slave past. In the UK, the Queen is still very much loved by her subjects, with 75% positive opinions, according to the YouGov Institute, but her heir Charles is much less appreciated (50%). Only 39% of Brits believe the institution will still be around 100 years from now.

Also read: Unhappy like a British Republican

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