Parade, picnic across the country, concert and royal family on the balcony: the United Kingdom celebrates next week the 70th anniversary of the reign of Elizabeth II, a historical record celebrated in a period of transition for the monarchy.
Tested by Brexit divisions, weary of the pandemic and its lockdowns and now strangled by rising prices, Britons will be able to take advantage of a long weekend from Thursday June 2.
If the recent health and mobility problems of the 96-year-old queen have raised fears that she is in retreat, the sovereign has multiplied surprise appearances in recent days, to inaugurate a metro line that bears her name, attend a horse show or browse the aisles of a major horticultural event in a chauffeur-driven golf cart.
But in a sign of the ongoing transition, her son Prince Charles, heir to the throne, replaced her for the annual speech marking the start of the parliamentary year. She has already been in charge of representing him abroad for several years.
On Thursday, before the deputies, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will pay tribute to the head of state, “rock” to which the British have been “anchored” for seven decades, a “remarkable woman” who “dedicated her life to her people “, in the Commonwealth and “to the very idea of what a constitutional monarchy can and should be,” according to excerpts from his speech.
Elizabeth II took the throne at the age of 25 on February 6, 1952, when her father, King George VI, died of lung cancer at the age of 56.
Doyen of living sovereigns, she recently rose to third place in terms of longevity among monarchs of sovereign states, surpassed by France’s King Louis XIV, who died in 1715, and Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), who died in 2016.
– Giant Picnic –
In London, from Oxford Street to the Mall, an ocher macadam avenue leading to Buckingham Palace, flags are proudly displayed, heralding the scale of the festivities.
They will kick off on Thursday with Trooping The Colour, marking the Queen’s official birthday, with over 1,500 soldiers and musicians, 240 horses and an overview of the Royal Air Force.
The traditional look of the balcony will be limited to working members of the royal family. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, though visiting from exile in California, were excluded, as was Prince Andrew, who had to pay millions of pounds to avoid a US trial for sexual assault.
Also on the programme, a religious ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Friday and horse racing and a big party at Buckingham Palace on Saturday.
In total, more than 200,000 events are planned and organizers expect 10 million people to attend the Jubilee picnics on Sunday June 5.
On this day, a grand parade will pay tribute to the monarch and the diversity of the British people. It will bring together 10,000 soldiers, artists and volunteers. Counting all forms of distribution around the world, the show should be seen by one billion people, according to organizers.
– ‘Very British, very eccentric’ –
“The scale is monumental,” Adrian Evans, conductor of the parade, recently told AFP, promising a “very, very British, very eccentric” show.
Among the various paintings in the parade, one will pay a more personal tribute to the queen, highlighting the corgis and horses, animals to which the sovereign feels a special affection.
For the occasion, the pubs will be able to open until one in the morning, two hours more than usual. The beer will flow: The British beer and pub association estimates that 90m pints of ale will be sold for the Jubilee, with the sector set to benefit from a £105m (€124m) boost.
According to a study published by the British think tank Future, two-thirds of the population is interested in the Jubilee and most believe that it represents an opportunity for union.
58% want to keep the monarchy, while 25% believe that the end of Elizabeth II’s reign would be the right time for the UK to become a Republic.
But, the study underlines, the lower support among young people and among ethnic minorities reflects the need for the monarchy to modernize if it wants to remain in the hearts of all Britons.
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