On the evening of the first day of celebrations for her 70th anniversary of reign, Buckingham Palace announced on Thursday, June 2, that Queen Elizabeth II will miss her jubilee mass on Friday. “The Queen greatly enjoyed the birthday parade and the flypast today, but felt some discomfort,” the palace said.

It was the high point of the four-day platinum jubilee festivities for the ultra-popular 96-year-old sovereign. Elizabeth II was cheered earlier today by tens of thousands on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Having become rare in public due to her declining health, the sovereign nonetheless remains a symbol of stability, despite the upheavals the country has gone through. The queen is thus appreciated for her tireless devotion, her irreproachable neutrality and her tongue-in-cheek humour.

Ascended to the throne at age 25 on February 6, 1952, when her father George VI died, Elizabeth II 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 first cousin, Colonel of the Scots Guards – one of the elite regiments of the British Royal Guard – who greeted the participants of the annual “Salute to the Colors” military parade.

She returned to the balcony a little later, for a Royal Air Force flyover, this time accompanied by members of the Royal Family who have official duties and their children. Absent therefore, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who attended the parade discreetly from another building, for their first return together to the United Kingdom since their sensational departure from California in 2020. Also missing was Prince Andrew, who paid millions of dollars to end a sexual assault complaint.

Unprecedented longevity

For this holiday, a dense crowd, colored with flags and portraits of the Queen, gathered along the Mall, the avenue leading to the palace.

On horseback, the heirs of Elizabeth II, Princes Charles and William, marched in the famous red outfit with a long bearskin hat for the traditional annual parade, bringing 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 II. It is unlikely that another will achieve such longevity: Charles, the Crown Prince is 73 years old, his son William will soon be 40 years old.

For the British, this jubilee brings respite and a moment of communion after several years of heartbreak over Brexit and strict confinements due to Covid-19, now followed by soaring prices.

Pennants, flags and giant portraits were hung in the streets across the UK. After Thursday’s parade, the Queen is due to light a 21-metre-high tree-shaped sculpture in front of Buckingham Palace remotely from Windsor Castle in the evening. Then a mass is scheduled for Friday, a giant concert on Saturday and above all tens of thousands of popular gatherings, including giant picnics on Sunday.

End of reign

“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,” the Sovereign, Head of State, said in a written message. State of fifteen kingdoms, from the United Kingdom to Canada via New Zealand.

Congratulations poured in from around the world, with French President Emmanuel Macron hailing his “dedication” to the Franco-British “undying friendship”. Even Ireland’s Republican Party Sinn Fein has highlighted its role in the Northern Ireland peace process, a move long unimaginable from the ex-IRA political showcase.

The appearances of Elizabeth II, which have become rare, are eagerly awaited. That of Thursday was not confirmed until Wednesday evening by the palace. Because her health worries: since a night in the hospital in October, she has canceled almost all her official appearances. Weakened since the death of her husband Philip last year, she has difficulty walking. She shows no willingness to back down, however, and has made several surprise appearances recently, smiling and relaxed.

In this end-of-reign atmosphere, the monarchy found itself faced with growing criticism, particularly in the former colonies, regarding the British Empire’s slavery past. In the United Kingdom, the queen remains much loved by her subjects with 75% of favorable opinions according to the YouGov institute, but her heir Charles is much less appreciated (50%). Only 39% of Britons think the institution will still exist in 100 years.