London: Queen Elizabeth II stepped gingerly onto the Buckingham Palace balcony Thursday, drawing wild cheers from the tens of thousands who came to join her at the start of four days of celebrations of her 70 years on the throne.
The jubilee is being commemorated with a four-day holiday extravaganza and events including a concert at Buckingham Palace on Saturday and a pageant staged by thousands of performers drawn from schools and community groups around the country on Sunday. Thousands of street parties are planned nationwide, repeating a tradition that began with the queen’s coronation in 1953.
“Everybody has got the same mission,” said Hillary Mathews, 70, who had come from Hertfordshire, outside London. “All the horrors that is been going on in the world and in England at the moment are put behind us for a day, and we can just enjoy really celebrating the queen.”
Elizabeth, who became queen at the age of 25 in 1953, is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and the first to reach the milestone of seven decades on the throne. She basked in her moment. Smiling, she chatted with her great-grandson Prince Louis, 4, who occasionally covered his ears as 70 military aircraft old and new swooped low over the palace to salute the queen. The six-minute display included a formation of Typhoon fighter jets flying in the shape of the number 70.
Former Prime Minister John Major, one of the 14 prime ministers of the queen’s reign, said the monarch’s stoic presence had helped steer the country over the decades. “The queen has represented our better selves for over 70 years,” he told the BBC.