Millions party to hail 60-year reign of Queen
London: Britain`s unparalleled ability to stage royal events full of pomp and pageantry was on display over the extended weekend as millions set aside economic woes and ignored anti-monarchists and carping commentators to celebrate 60 years of Queen Elizabeth`s reign.
The four-day Diamond Jubilee events that concluded today attracted a global television audience, presenting a prelude of sorts to another forthcoming major event of 2012: the London Olympics, which is also supposed to put the `Great` back into Britain. By all accounts, Queen Elizabeth, 86, enjoyed the events, particularly Sunday`s pageant on River Thames, when she stood for nearly four hours along with over 1 million people along the river as the 1000-strong flotilla greeted her, with the famously fickle weather in attendance.
Last night, music by pop royalty and fireworks extravaganza rocked thousands of people gathered outside the Buckingham Palace, but the Queen`s consort, Prince Philip, who was absent having taken ill with a bladder infection. Millions elsewhere participated in over 10,000 street parties across Britain during the Diamond Jubilee weekend as a wave of patriotism swept across large sections of the population. Others used the days off work to holiday.
The first event in the Diamond Jubilee year was a royal visit to Leicester also known as `Little India` in March, when she was greeted with Holi colours and the popular Bollywood number, `Jhoom barabar jhoom`. On Sunday, members of the Shree Muktajeevan Pipe Band and Shree Muktajeevan Dhol Academy belted out another foot-tapping number, `Dhoom machale, dhoom, dhoom`, as a large number of Britons and tourists gathered along the River Thames.
Opponents of monarchy quietly made their presence felt during the Sunday Thames pageant and outside the St Pauls Cathedral today, while some commentators followed the anti-monarchy line and questioned the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The anti-monarchy campaign group Republic wants a head of state for Britain who is elected, rather than a monarchy that is "expensive, unaccountable and a drag on our democratic process" the monarchy is a broken institution, it says.
Republic`s views are echoed by others, such as the influential pro-Labour columnist, Polly Toynbee, who wrote in The Guardian: "What are we celebrating? A singularly undistinguished family`s hold on the nation, a mirage of nationhood, a majestic delusion". Besides tourists arriving in London for the pageant, Diamond Jubilee celebrations were organised by the Foreign Office in various Commonwealth countries, including India, and 16 other countries in which the Queen remains the head of state.
Queen Elizabeth came to the throne on February 6, 1952 and her coronation took place on June 2, 1953. She celebrated her Silver Jubilee (25 years) in 1977 and her Golden Jubilee (50 years) in 2002. The only other British monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee was Queen Victoria – the `Empress of India` – in 1897. During Queen Elizabeth`s 60-year reign, she has appointed 12 prime ministers, from Winston Churchill (1952-1955) to David Cameron.