Queen Elizabeth II attends the inauguration of the Elizabeth Line underground, on 17 May 2022 in London (POOL / Andrew Matthews)
Parade, picnic across the country, concert and royal family on the balcony: next week the UK will celebrate the 70th anniversary of Elizabeth II’s reign, a historic record celebrated in a transition period for the monarchy.
Tested by the divisiveness of Brexit, tired by the pandemic and its restrictions and now strangled by rising prices, the British will be able to take advantage of a long weekend from Thursday 2 June.
If the 96-year-old queen’s recent health and mobility problems have raised fears of her withdrawal, the sovereign has taken several surprises in recent days, commissioning a subway line that bears her name, attending a horse show, or wandering the aisles. of a major horticultural event in a chauffeured golf cart.
But a sign of the ongoing transition, her son Prince Charles, heir to the crown, replaced her for the annual speech that marked the start of the parliamentary year. He has been responsible for representation abroad for several years now.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will pay tribute on Thursday before MPs to the head of state, “rock” to whom the British have been “anchored” for seven decades, a “remarkable woman” who “dedicated her life to her people”, in the Commonwealth and “in the idea itself of what a constitutional monarchy can and should be,” excerpts from his speech.
Queen Elizabeth II on her coronation day, June 2, 1953 in London ( AFP / – )
Elizabeth II ascended to the throne at the age of 25 on February 6, 1952, when her father, King George VI, died of lung cancer at age 56.
Doyen of living monarchs, she recently rose to third place in terms of longevity among the monarchs of sovereign states, overtaken by the King of France Louis XIV, who died in 1715 and the King of Thailand 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 magnitude of the festivities.
The “Trooping The Colour” military parade, in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday, in London in June 2016 (AFP/OLI SCARFF)
They kick off Thursday with Trooping The Colour, the Queen’s official birthday, featuring more than 1,500 soldiers and musicians, 240 horses and an overview of the Royal Air Force.
The traditional balcony look is limited to working members of the royal family. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, although visiting from their California exile, were barred, as was Prince Andrew, who had to pay millions of pounds to avoid trial in the United States for sexual assault.
Also on the program are a religious ceremony on Friday at Saint Paul’s Cathedral and on Saturday horse racing and a big party at Buckingham Palace.
Queen Elizabeth II arrives in Surrey on day two of the Epsom Derby on June 1, 2019 (AFP/GLYN KIRK)
In total, more than 200,000 events are planned and organizers expect 10 million people to attend the anniversary 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. Including all forms of distribution worldwide, the show should be seen by a billion people, according to the organizers.
– “Very British, very eccentric” –
“The scale is monumental,” Adrian Evans, the parade’s conductor, recently told AFP, promising a “very, very British, very eccentric” show.
Corgi dog puppets at the Imagineer company’s workshop in Coventry on May 20, 2022 during Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee preparations in England (AFP/ADRIAN DENNIS)
Among the various paintings in the parade, one will pay a more personal tribute to the Queen, especially with corgis and horses, animals to which the Sovereign is particularly attached.
For the occasion, pubs will be allowed to open until 1am, two hours longer than usual. Beer will flow: The British Beer and Pub Association estimates 90 million pints of beer will be sold for the anniversary, and the sector will benefit from a £105 million (€124 million) boost.
According to a study published by the British think tank Future, two-thirds of the population are interested in the anniversary and a majority believe it offers an opportunity to unite.
58% want to keep the monarchy, while 25% believe the end of Elizabeth II’s reign would be the right time for the UK to become a republic.
But, the study points out, the lower support among young people and among ethnic minorities reflects the need for the monarchy to modernize if it is to remain in the hearts of all Britons.