A rendering of the Royal Barge, which will cruise the River Thames during the Diamond Jubilee Pageant this June // © 2012 VisitBritain
A flotilla of 1,000 boats will sail down the River Thames on June 3 to kick off the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, a three-day celebration to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne. Only Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years and 216 days was longer. Crowds, estimated to reach the millions, are expected to line the banks of the river and view the pageant from parks and other public areas where outdoor screens will be installed.
The queen will wave to her subjects from the 209-foot long, three-decker Royal Barge decorated in the royal colors — red, gold and purple. The barge will be adorned with flowers from the queen’s gardens, and the queen herself will sit on a canopied throne atop the vessel as it passes approximately 14 miles down river from Hammersmith to Greenwich Royal Navy College. She will be accompanied by members of the royal family.
The waterborne procession will stretch for about seven miles and will be an eclectic mix of sailing ships, steamers, wooden launches, motorboats and even an occasional rowboat. Applications to participate closed last October, and for every place in the flotilla, three boats applied. The Amazon, a boat that took part in Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee, is also expected to participate.
The flotilla will be divided into 10 sections, each separated by a herald barge, the first of which will be a floating belfry with eight new bells. There will be live entertainment highlighting the Queen’s six-decade reign, and one barge will feature daytime fireworks and a mechanical, flame-spitting dragon.
In addition to the river pageant, a series of events on land will celebrate the queen’s Jubilee. A concert at Buckingham Palace will feature Paul McCartney, Elton John, Annie Lennox and Stevie Wonder, among others. The event will be broadcast live. The queen will also light one of an estimated 4,000 beacons that will shine around the world to commemorate the 60th year of her reign.
“The Jubilee is part of the tourism trifecta for us this summer,” said Meredith Pearson, director of communications, U.S. for VisitBritain. “We’ve got the Jubilee followed by World Pride in early July and then the 2012 Summer Olympics.”
The Olympic Park in East London, created for the 2012 Summer Olympics, will be named the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park following the Games.
Members of the royal family are being dispatched throughout the world as goodwill ambassadors to mark the queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Prince William and Kate, who celebrated their first wedding anniversary on April 29, will travel to Singapore and Malaysia, with Prince Harry assigned to Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas.
In keeping with the Diamond Jubliee’s theme, an exhibition at Buckingham Palace will show the many ways in which diamonds have been used by British monarchs for the last 200 years. The exhibit includes a display of the Queen’s personal jewels, some inherited by her, others acquired during her reign.
The Royal flotilla down the Thames will be the first in 350 years, but it has a long tradition dating back to the coronation of Anne Boleyn in 1533 and an extravagant musical event held in 1717 by King George I. The Royal Barge will carry the queen, her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, and other members of the royal family.
Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne on Feb. 6, 1952 following the death of her father, King George VI, who was recently profiled in the Oscar-winning film, “The King’s Speech.”