Diamond Jubilee River Pageant

Love this kid. What a champ.

It’s the Diamond Jubilee weekend! I didn’t expect to get all a-flutter about these events, but I figured, when else in my life am I going to have a chance to see a Queen riding by on a lavish barge and accompanied by a fleet of 1,000 boats? It’s like the 4th of July but with royalty (paradoxical as that is), with an added dash of Disney. While the enthusiasm may be inexplicable, it’s undoubtedly intense, and infectious too!

This pretty much sums up the view at eye-level. Heads and hands and cameras.

The view, to be honest, was pretty terrible. I basically did leg raises, standing on my tippy toes, for twenty minutes as the flotillas passed by, and even then I could only really see anything via the large screens and my camera LCD. All of which I mention to apologize for my rather uninspired photos today.

For a nice collection of photos from today’s event, check out the Financial Times slideshow here.

William and Kate boarding the barge. I think Kate’s appearances got the most cheers, maybe even rivaling the Queen’s. She really is a vision of loveliness.

The Queen also got those Union Jacks waving and the crowds cheering when she emerged!

This is unfortunately the best I could do with Photoshop to correct this screen-capture. Despite the poor quality, I wanted to include it because it’s this aerial view of 1000+ rowers and kayakers and gondoliers that makes the pageantry truly impressive. The royal barge itself is also quite beautiful, with gold-leaf covering the ship’s prow and bedecked with the loveliest flowers.

Motor boats steered by sea cadets, flying the flags of the Commonwealth countries.

The royal barge! The Queen is a teeny tiny white speck in the middle of the top level.

Afterwards, the crowds walked back towards Trafalgar Square, and totally owned the space thanks to road closures!

Towards Westminster, with Parliament and Big Ben in the distance.. Apparently they’re likely to rename the Big Ben “the Elizabeth Tower” in honor of the Queen, but who’s ever going to call it that? Big Ben will do just fine, thanks.

More events upcoming, though thanks to some back-to-back finals this week I might not be able to go. So I’m especially glad I went today, despite the weather!

I’d been looking to British media for information about the Diamond Jubilee, but found it to be woefully lacking in information. And even though it’s been on the front pages of all the newspapers, I haven’t found much helpful commentary as far as learning about the symbolism and history. As one news outlet observed, it’s all a bit sycophantic with yay, hurray and hurrah. That’s great and all, but I want some context, people!

Leave it to the New York Times to provide some real info:

The flotilla was richly varied. A barge with pealing bells led off, followed by an array of “man-powered” craft, single-seat kayaks, dragon boats, a Maori war canoe and jumbo Venetian gondolas. They were followed by 40 of the small boats that participated in the evacuation of 340,000 British and French soldiers from Dunkirk, France, in 1940, and an armada of “working boats” that included tugs, fireboats and 19th-century steamboats.

By far the most eye-catching vessel was a 94-foot red-and-gold replica of a historic processional barge, the Gloriana. Built at a cost of $1.5 million, the barge was rowed by 18 oarsmen who included two multiple gold medal-winning Olympic rowers, Sir Steven Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent, as well as disabled British servicemen from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

The Gloriana and hundreds of other craft hung with colorful bunting were part of an effort by the pageant’s organizers to recreate a spectacle similar to the one captured by the Italian artist Canaletto in a series of celebrated paintings in 1747, “The Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day.”

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6 thoughts on “Diamond Jubilee River Pageant

  1. Yeah, you at least got to go! I don’t think I will ever get close to the Spanish royal family, they’re not big into jubilees. Good luck with finals!

  2. I got a closer view of the Queen and Prince Phillip once by accident on a London street. Police on Motorcycles came and blocked traffic and a black car drove by. My friend totally missed the event, but her work college and I did a double take and said “was that the Queen???” Yes it was… and no crowds, pomp or circumstance… or unfortunately photos. Cool you were there… once in a lifetime!

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