My feature on the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II can be read in the May 2012 issue of Panorama, the in-flight magazine of Ukraine International Airlines.
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The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II:
This summer, before London hosts the international spectacle of the Olympic Games, the United Kingdom will enjoy a grand occasion of its own. During the first week of June the people of Great Britain will be celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II, with a collection of happy and glorious events. If you haven’t explored the British Isles before, now is the perfect time.
Between 2 and 5 June, to mark the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1952, Buckingham Palace is treating Britain’s citizens and visitors to its shores to a long Jubilee Weekend. These four days will be a national holiday, and on each of them there will be a special public occasion, to celebrate the reign of a very special monarch. These events will showcase some of the best parts of English life – and almost all are free to take part in.
On Saturday 2 June Queen Elizabeth will attend the Epsom Derby Festival, one of the world’s most prestigious horse racing gatherings. As equestrianism is Her Majesty’s favourite pastime, and Epsom one of her favourite meetings, this year’s Derby has been named the first official event of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Along with the Wimbledon tennis championships and golf at the Open, the Epsom Derby is a cherished part of the British sporting calendar. There has been a racecourse in Epsom – a town in the picturesque county of Surrey, 40 miles south of London – since 1780, and the Derby now draws more than 125,000 spectators from all over the world. The festival is a favourite for race-goers, as Epsom’s grandstands have a more relaxed and inclusive atmosphere than the enclosures at Royal Ascot – with a dress code to match. It is also a rare opportunity for people to catch a glimpse of Her Royal Highness in person, as she cheers on her horses from her seat in The Queen’s Stand. This year all the talk in the galleries will be of the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Guests are sure to put an extra few pounds on horses with a royal name – in previous years the Derby has been won by Windsor Lad, Arctic Prince and Royal Palace.
On Sunday 3 June, neighbourhoods in all parts of the United Kingdom will partake in The Big Jubilee Lunch – a series of street parties and family picnics, which in 2012 are being organised in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The Big Lunch is an annual event, which was conceived in 2008 to allow the people of Britain to get to know their neighbours better. Last year two million people took part, from Northern Ireland to Norwich and from Scotland to St. Austell – the village in the county of Cornwall where the party’s organisers, the Eden Project, are based. Every gathering is different in its style and scale, but all Big Lunchers are guaranteed the best of British food to share with new friends, as well as music and games.
Many of the lunches will have a royal theme this summer. In fact, Britons owe a lot of the island’s culinary heritage to their monarchy: rare is the English picnic hamper that doesn’t contain a Victoria sponge cake – named after Queen Victoria, who was partial to a slice of cake or two with her afternoon tea – and sandwiches or salad with dollops of coronation chicken, a dish that was invented for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation banquet in 1952.
On Sunday 3 June Britain will also rekindle its naval history, as Londoners will gather along the banks of the River Thames to follow the The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. Led by the Queen and her family in the Royal Barge, more than a thousand boats, decked in flags and streamers and representing every nation of the Commonwealth, will carry 30,000 people along the river. The pageant will begin in the plush western district of Hammersmith, and will finish in the evening outside Greenwich Royal Naval College, in the east of London. The procession will float past many of the capital’s most famous landmarks and under fourteen of its bridges – including Tower Bridge, which will raise its gates especially for the boats. The Diamond Jubilee Pageant will be the largest collection of ships that has ever assembled on the Thames. It is also sure to be one of London’s loudest processions, with the passengers on each vessel playing traditional British or Commonwealth music, or making a cacophony of church bells and whistles.
After the weekend of feasting and fanfare, the remaining days of the Jubilee celebration will be mellow and refined. As the sun sets on Monday 4 June, selected people and groups will set light to 2,012 Diamond Jubilee Beacons in various parts of the United Kingdom, on the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, as well as in towns across the Commonwealth. The exact locations for these lanterns are still a top secret, but many of them will be found in the country’s most historic and iconic places.
On Tuesday 5 June, St. Paul’s Cathedral will host a Service of Thanksgiving in honour of the Queen’s sixty-year reign. In 2012 Her Majesty is also marking sixty years as Head of the Church of England, and she will be received in the Cathedral by other religious leaders from all of the Commonwealth states. After the service, Queen Elizabeth will take part in a Carriage Procession through the streets of the capital, which will give the people of London another opportunity to see her during this special week.
If you are not in Britain in time to catch the Jubilee Weekend festivities, many other Diamond Jubilee celebrations are taking place all summer long. Until the end of October you can see a collection of magnificent images of the Queen, Sixty Photographs for Sixty Years, at the elegant Windsor Castle, less than an hour from London by train.
Join Queen Elizabeth II this June, and be part of her special anniversary. Visit Epsom to experience one of the great English days out; bring a picnic fit for royalty to one of London’s sumptuous parks; find a spot at a riverside café or bar to welcome an armada of outrageous ships – or raise a glass of champagne to Her Royal Highness under a spectacular Jubilee beacon. Great Britain is preparing for an unforgettable summer, and everyone is invited!