When Queen Elizabeth II appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with her family for a final wave to the crowd, it officially marked the end of a four-day extravaganza for her Platinum Jubilee.
It was a surprise for tens of thousands of fans, and up to one billion people watching live, who had only seen the 96-year-old Queen, briefly, three times during the celebrations.
It all began on Thursday local time with Trooping the Colour, followed by a stunning Royal Air Force flypast, where her great-grandson Louis stole the show, and continued with a National Service of Thanksgiving on Friday, where Harry and Meghan were choreographed to walk down St Paul’s Cathedral by themselves.
Saturday evening was all about a glittering rock concert and light show outside Buckingham Palace, which started well, with a pre-recorded comic sketch of the monarch having tea with Paddington Bear, a gentle humorous exchange about where they kept their marmalade sandwiches.
It ended with American singers, Alicia Keys (who bizarrely sang New York) and Diana Ross (reportedly a Royal family favourite) singing, or as many questioned, miming Chain Reaction, and a musical number from hit Broadway show Hamilton with Lin-Manuel Miranda.
In the middle of the pomp and pageantry was Sir Rod Stewart singing – karaoke style – an old Neil Diamond song Sweet Caroline, which, he said, “the BBC made him sing it”. Admittedly he was recovering from COVID-19 so might have still been in a fog.
Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John were reduced to performing pre-recorded numbers, and many wondered why Tom Jones, Robbie Williams and Adele weren’t centre stage.
Twitter users briefly went into a mini meltdown, asking about relevance to the Crown and Commonwealth.
“I’m confused. All these people saying the concert made them proud to be British … the main acts were American … no Adele? No Ed? Diana Ross headlining? Why did this make u feel more patriotic??” asked one user.
Another echoed echoed the sentiment of many: “Hands down, best part was the Queen and Paddington. I have to wonder though … you are celebrating 70 years of an English queen. She’s a legend but why was Diana Ross, an American, the headliner?”
By Sunday, it was all back on track, with a super-charged version of a Macy’s street parade spanning kilometres, with dozens of celebrities including Kate Moss waving from an open-top double-decker bus, all representing their achievements in music, fashion and the arts.
There were 200 horses marching down The Mall to Buckingham Palace, a peloton of 300 cyclists on bikes, a parade of vintage cars, a collection of James Bond cars, and giant characters from children’s TV shows.
UK singer Ed Sheeran finally got his turn to sing Perfect and Sir Cliff Richard had his moment on a bus, wearing a Union Jack jacket.
The BBC summed it up perfectly: “It was baffling, brilliant and bonkers”.
Either way, the Queen loved it, and so did up to 20 million Brits, who celebrated across the country with morning teas, lunches and playing dress-ups.
“When it comes to how to mark 70 years as your Queen, there is no guidebook to follow. It really is a first. But I have been humbled and deeply touched that so many people have taken to the streets to celebrate my Platinum Jubilee,” the Queen said in a statement on Sunday.
“While I may not have attended every event in person, my heart has been with you all; and I remain committed to serving you to the best of my ability, supported by my family.”
Let’s see exactly how the four days unfolded, beginning with the official birthday of the British sovereign, and over the next three days, celebrating the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne on February 6, 1952.
Day 1: June 2 – Trooping the Colour, military flypast
Four days of events kicked off on Thursday, when a beaming Queen waved to crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace after a military parade and Royal Air Force flypast.
The monarch later led the lighting of the Principal Platinum Jubilee Beacon at her Windsor Castle home.
Day 2: June 3 – Thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral
The celebrations continued with a National Service of Thanksgiving at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral but the Queen, who had been forced to cancel a series of engagements recently due to ‘‘episodic mobility problems’’, reluctantly pulled out.
Son and heir Prince Charles, 73, instead represented the Queen, a devout Christian and also the titular head of the Church of England.
Also absent from the service was the Queen’s second son Prince Andrew, 62, who tested positive for COVID-19.
However, the Queen’s grandson Prince Harry and wife Meghan were there, making their first public appearance together in Britain since stepping down from royal duties two years ago.
They were greeted by cheers and a few boos on their arrival, as was British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who gave a reading.
Day 3: June 4 – Parties, races, cake stalls and the concert
The Queen also missed Saturday’s 243rd Epsom Derby (she didn’t have a horse racing), which she normally attends, and which together with a massive rock concert outside Buckingham Palace were the focal point of the third day of Jubilee celebrations.
The twilight concert began in a blaze of glory, and by sunset a cluster of drones had miraculously hovered over the palace in the shape of a giant corgi.
British solicitor Nazir Afzal called the effects ‘‘brilliant’’.
‘‘The rest of the world must think we’re bonkers …’’ he added.
The show kicked off with Queen and Adam Lambert, followed by a host of talent including composer Hans Zimmer, Ella Eyre, George Ezra, British new wave band Duran Duran and opera sensation Andrea Bocelli, who sang the aria Nessun Dorma from the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot.
The highlight was, of course, football fan Sir Rod Stewart’s yellow-suited performance.
Prince Charles, 73, then paid a personal tribute: ‘‘You pledged to serve your whole life – you continue to deliver. That is why we are here,’’ Charles said in his message to the Queen, who was at her Windsor Castle residence outside London.
‘‘You have met us and talked with us. You laugh and cry with us and, most importantly, you have been there for us, for these 70 years,’’ Charles added, referring to the Queen as ‘‘Mummy’’ at the event that began with a pre-recorded comic sketch of the 96-year-old monarch having tea with Paddington Bear.
Day 4: June 5: The street parade and a fond farewell
Britain’s four days of celebrations reportedly cost upwards of £50 million ($86 million).
This doesn’t include the last day, which was being paid for by the Platinum Jubilee Pageant Ltd at no cost to taxpayers. It cost a further £12 million ($20 million) according to The Times.
The pageant wound its way through central London to huge spectator crowds, along with tens of thousands of patriotic Brits holding their own street parties and lunches.
Ed Sheeran finally got to perform, and more than 100 ‘‘national treasures’’ ranging from former footballer Gary Lineker to children’s TV puppet Basil Brush joined the military bands, performers and dancers.
The procession followed a similar route the Queen took on her coronation day in 1953, and showcased the different decades of her record reign.
The last nod goes to the state-of-the-art light show that turned Buckingham Palace into an IMAX theatre on Saturday night, and a drone display.
Their effects also portrayed a horse, an outline of a stamp – complete with the Queen’s face – and a note saying: ‘‘Thank you Ma’am’’.