Smiling Queen Elizabeth waves to the crowd
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Smiling Queen Elizabeth waves to the crowd

A radiant Queen Elizabeth waved to the cheering crowds that gathered outside Buckingham Palace as Britain kicked off four days of pomp, celebrations, and parades to celebrate her record-breaking 70 years on the British throne.

Tens of thousands of royal supporters waved flags along the streets of London ahead of a military parade to mark the start of the four-day platinum anniversary. Millions of people across Britain and the world would watch the festivities and participate in street parties and light beacons in honor of the 96-year-old Queen.

Smiling Queen Elizabeth waves to the crowd

Elizabeth, walking stick in hand and dressed in a dusky dove blue outfit that she also wore for an official anniversary photo, was joined by her son and heir, Prince Charles, 73, and other senior royals on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

As the family waved to the crowd and enjoyed a Royal Air Force flight, Prince William’s 4-year-old son, Louis, covered his ears and cried as the planes whizzed overhead.

Elizabeth has been on the throne longer than any of her predecessors and is the third-longest reigning monarch ever from a sovereign state. Opinion polls show that she remains hugely popular and respected among the British.

World leaders, including US President Joe Biden, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Pope Francis, and former British Prime Ministers were among those sending goodwill messages.

The celebrations kicked off with the Trooping the Colour, a military parade held annually to mark the Queen’s official birthday, where 1,500 soldiers marched to military music in ceremonial uniforms of scarlet tunics and bear hats.

Later, the crowd moved to the Mall, the grand boulevard leading to Buckingham Palace, where they cheered in the radiant sun and waved Union flags as modern and historic aircraft were displayed overhead.

Thursday marks not only the start of the Jubilee but also the 69th anniversary of the coronation of Elizabeth, who became Queen after the death of her father, George VI, in February 1952.

Her involvement in this year’s celebrations will be somewhat limited compared to previous major events. In recent months, the Queen has reduced the number of public appearances due to what Buckingham Palace calls ‘episodic mobility issues’. In May, she missed the opening of parliament for the first time in nearly six decades.

Senior royals, including Charles, and his eldest son William, 39, perform some ceremonial duties on behalf of the Queen.

Several members of the royal family were absent on Thursday, including the Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew, 62, who settled a US lawsuit in February accusing him of sexually abusing a woman when she was a minor. Andreas denied the accusation.

The palace later announced that Andrew had tested positive for COVID-19 and would not attend a Thanksgiving service on Friday.

Prince Harry, who now lives in Los Angeles with his American wife Meghan after resigning from his royal duties, watched the parade but was absent from the palace balcony, with only “working” family members.

There were artillery salutes in London, across the UK, and from Royal Navy ships at sea.

“It was lovely, everything we hoped it would be. We’re a bit older now, so we were here for the 25th and the 50th (anniversary). But this was the best,” said Nurse Ian Higgins, 62, who watched the events in central London.

In the evening, beacons will be lit across the country and the Commonwealth, with the Queen taking the lead with the lighting of the main Platinum Jubilee Beacon at her home in Windsor Castle.

The government announced two holidays to mark the celebration, the first major public gathering since the pandemic and a welcome distraction for many at a time of mounting economic hardship.

Among the tributes pouring in from around the world was a video message from former US President Barack Obama that aired on the BBC.

“Your life has been a gift to the UK and the world. And it is with gratitude for your leadership and the kindness you have shown me and my family that I say may the light of your crown remain the rule,” he said.

Several people caused a brief disturbance by running ahead of marching soldiers on Mall boulevard before being dragged away by police. Several were arrested.