LONDON (AP) – A colorful street pageant celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s life and highlighting Britain’s diversity paraded through central London on Sunday, the final day of a long holiday weekend honoring the monarch’s 70 years on the throne. Royal fans were hoping to see another glimpse of the 96-year-old queen later at Buckingham Palace, where the parade ends.
With the ringing of bells at Westminster Abbey, a spectacular military parade featuring 200 horses began the ceremony as they marched down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. They flanked the gold state coach, a gilded carriage that transported the queen to her coronation 69 years ago.
The queen wasn’t taking part in the pageant – though a virtual version of her, drawn from archival video from her 1953 coronation, was shown at the coach’s windows.
Some 6,000 performers were parading along a three-kilometer (nearly two-mile) route lined with a sea of Union flags, telling the story of the queen’s life with dance, vintage cars, vibrant costumes, carnival music and giant puppets.
Some of Britain’s best-loved cultural exports were here, from the Daleks in “Doctor Who” to James Bond’s Aston Martins. Celebrities including singer Cliff Richard danced and sang from open-top double decker buses meant to represent the sights and sounds of each decade from the 1950s onwards.
Organizers say the pageant is expected to be watched by 1 billion people around the world.
The keenest royal fans braved the wet, chilly weather and camped out on the Mall overnight to secure the best view of the pageant. Some came for the celebrities who will be performing, while others wanted to be part of a historical moment.
“It’s part of history, it’s never going to happen again. It’s something special, so if you are going to do it you’ve got to go big or go home, ”said Shaun Wallen, 50.
The queen did not join her family in the royal box watching the pageant. Nor did Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, who made their first family trip to the UK since they stepped away from royal duties and moved to the US in 2020. The couple has largely stayed out of the limelight during the Platinum Jubilee events.
The monarch hasn’t appeared in public for the Platinum Jubilee events since Thursday, when she smiled and waved on Buckingham Palace’s balcony with her family. She has limited her appearances in recent months due to what the palace describes as “episodic mobility issues.” She also had COVID-19 this spring.
Still, she delighted the country when she appeared in a surprise comedy video that opened a concert Saturday staged in front of Buckingham Palace. In the video, the monarch had tea with a computer-animated Paddington Bear – and revealed that, just like the furry character, she was partial to marmalade sandwiches and liked to keep them in her handbag.
Diana Ross and the rock band Queen headlined the star-studded tribute concert Saturday night, which also featured Rod Stewart, Duran Duran, Alicia Keys and Andrea Bocelli.
The celebrities paid tribute to the queen’s decades of service to the UK and the Commonwealth. Prince Charles, her eldest son and heir to the throne, highlighted his mother’s role as a symbol of unity and stability through the decades.
Addressing the queen as “Your Majesty, mummy,” Charles said: “You laugh and cry with us and, most importantly, you have been there for us for these 70 years.”
On Sunday, Charles and his wife, Camilla, mingled with crowds at The Oval cricket ground in London for a “Big Jubilee Lunch.” Millions across the country likewise set out long tables, balloons and picnic fare for similar patriotic street parties and barbeques.
Later Sunday, celebrities including singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran will belt out “God Save The Queen” outside Buckingham Palace as a finale to the pageant. Many hope that the monarch will make a second balcony appearance to cap the weekend of celebrations.
Jo Kearney contributed to this report.
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