Britain's Queen Elizabeth waves next to Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, on the balcony at Buckingham Palace. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Queen Elizabeth waved from her Buckingham Palace balcony to
the cheering masses and thanked millions of well-wishers at
the end of four days of spectacular Diamond Jubilee
celebrations marking her 60th year on the throne.
From the biggest flotilla seen on the River Thames for more
than three centuries, a star-studded concert and a
horse-drawn procession through the capital to street parties
in towns, tiny villages and communities up and down the
country, the queen said the show of public affection had been
"a humbling experience".
"It has touched me deeply to see so many thousands of
families, neighbours and friends celebrating together in such
a happy atmosphere," the queen said in a rare televised
address to the nation.
"I will continue to treasure and draw inspiration from the
countless kindnesses shown to me in this country and
throughout the Commonwealth. Thank you all," she said,
standing in front of a framed photograph of grandson Prince
William and wife Kate.
Hundreds of thousands of people cheered, sang patriotic songs
and waved Union Jack flags outside Buckingham Palace at the
finale of festivities for the Diamond Jubilee, only the
second to be celebrated by a British monarch.
The 86-year-old beamed at the throng and waved from the
balcony of the palace, accompanied by the senior members of
her family with one notable absentee - Prince Philip, her
husband of 64 years who was taken ill with a bladder
infection on Monday.
It was one of the few grand state occasions in her life when
he has not been present, taking some of the gloss off what
has widely been seen as a triumphant diamond jubilee that has
reinforced the popularity of the queen and the monarchy.
The grand Mall avenue leading to the queen's London residence
was turned into a sea of red, white and blue as well-wishers
flooded the road to hail the queen before a flypast led by
the Spitfires which won the Battle of Britain and concluded
with a display by a Royal Air Force aerobatics team.
Celebrations outside Buckingham Palace closed when soldiers
fired a rifle salute, then thrust their bearskin hats in the
air to lead the crowds beyond the gates in a rousing three
cheers to Elizabeth II, the only British monarch other than
Queen Victoria to have reigned for 60 years.
As the ecstatic crowd roared its approval, the queen flanked
by son and heir Charles, his wife Camilla, Prince William and
his new wife Kate as well as brother Harry, gave one final
wave before heading inside.
"I don't think we'll see anything like this again in my
generation. It was wonderful," said Joseph Afrane, 49, a
photographer who was wearing a red, white and blue Union Jack
flag waistcoat and hat.
Millions attended street parties, watched the queen glide
past on a gilded barge as part of the River Thames pageant on
Sunday, watched a concert in front of Buckingham Palace on
Monday and spilled into the streets for Tuesday's carriage
procession and balcony wave.
Not even typically British inclement weather dampened
enthusiasm, with rain failing to deter the crowds, although
Philip's illness overshadowed Tuesday's events.
After visiting him in hospital, the queen's youngest son
Prince Edward said his father was getting better.
However, without Philip who has been at her side throughout
her long reign, Elizabeth cut a slightly subdued figure as
she attended a thanksgiving service at St Paul's Cathedral
and a celebratory lunch.
"The remarkable thing is that she carried on (despite
Philip's illness)," said Tim Fell, 32, a nursery school
teacher from Edinburgh in Scotland who was carrying a
homemade banner reading "Elizabeth the Great: she's a
"Words like duty, commitment, loyalty and country aren't just
words in a dictionary for the queen, they are part of who she
is," he added.
Unlike some of the previous days' celebrations, Tuesday's
events were more typical of the formal displays of pageantry
for which British royalty is known across the globe.
Courtiers in an array of dazzling ceremonial red and golden
tunics and mounted soldiers wearing shining helmets and
breastplates dating from centuries past when Britain was an
imperial power were on show across London.
With Philip absent, the queen led a horse-drawn carriage
procession to Buckingham Palace in an open-top 1902 State
Landau with Prince Charles and Camilla, while military bands
played and a 60-gun salute was fired.
Harry, William and Kate, in an Alexander McQueen dress,
Earlier, Elizabeth - dressed in a fine silk tulle outfit,
embroidered with tiny mint green star-shaped flowers
embellished with silver thread - arrived at Paul's Cathedral
to shouts of "God save the Queen" and a trumpet fanfare as
she made her way past bowing and curtsying members of the
Commentators said the church service for Elizabeth, who came
to the throne aged 25 in 1952, would hold particular
poignancy for the queen who as titular head of the Church of
England holds her religious role close to her heart.
"We are marking today the anniversary of one historic and
very public act of dedication - a dedication that has endured
faithfully, calmly and generously through most of the adult
lives of most of us here," said Rowan Williams, the
Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the Anglican
Afterwards the royals enjoyed a lavish lunch at Westminster
Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament and the
site for the lying-in-state of her mother, the Queen Mother,
after her death in 2002.
The long weekend dedicated to the diamond jubilee has been
seen as a success story for the monarchy, their media team
and Elizabeth personally.
Polls suggest the crown and the queen herself are more
popular than they have been for decades, with one suggesting
the hereditary monarch was more in touch with her people than
Cameron and his ministers.
"While many presidents and prime ministers have come and
gone, your majesty's reign has endured," said U.S. President
Barack Obama in a glowing congratulatory message.
"May the light of your majesty's crown continue to reign
supreme for many years to come."