LONDON — The royal flag has been hoisted over Buckingham Palace, suggesting Queen Elizabeth II could appear on the final day of festivities marking her 70 years on the throne.
Known as the Royal Standard, the flag is only flown over one of the palaces when the Queen is in residence.
The 96-year-old Queen only appeared in public twice during the four-day Platinum Jubilee, toning down the festivities for some fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the monarch. Elizabeth has reduced her schedule in recent months due to travel issues.
The last time the standard was raised at Buckingham Palace was on Thursday, before Elizabeth stood on the balcony and waved to supporters after the Queen’s birthday parade. Later the same day, she took part in a national lighthouse lighting ceremony at Windsor Castle, the royal residence 20 miles west of London where she has spent much of the past two years.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.
LONDON (AP) — A colorful street performer celebrating the life of Queen Elizabeth II and showcasing Britain’s diversity marched through central London on Sunday, the final day of a long weekend holiday in honor of the monarch’s 70 years on the throne. Royal fans were hoping to catch another glimpse of the 96-year-old queen at Buckingham Palace, where the parade ends.
With the bells ringing 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 Golden Carriage, a golden horse-drawn carriage that carried the Queen to her coronation 69 years ago.
The Queen did not take part in the contest, although a virtual version of her, taken from archival video of her 1953 coronation, was shown in the coach windows.
After the pomp and pageantry came a mix of acts celebrating the diversity of modern Britain and the Commonwealth, from hip-hop and Bollywood dancers to drag queens and Mardi Gras-style floats. Some 6,000 performers marched along a three-kilometre (nearly two-mile) route lined with a sea of Union flags, telling the Queen’s life story with dancing, cars old towns, vibrant costumes, carnival music and giant puppets.
Some of Britain’s most beloved cultural exports were here, from the Daleks in ‘Doctor Who’ to the Aston Martins of James Bond. 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.
Thousands of people took to the streets of London, and onlookers and participants expressed their excitement and pride in their Queen and their country.
“It’s a huge honor to be part of this, we have the best queen in the world, right? Best country in the world,” said Warren Jobson, a biker who took part in the parade.
Organizers say the contest is expected to be watched by 1 billion people worldwide.
The most avid royal fans braved the wet and cold weather and camped out on the mall overnight to secure the best view of the contest. Some came for the celebrities performing, while others wanted to be part of a historic moment.
“It’s history, it’ll never happen again. It’s something special, so if you want to do it, you have to go big or go home,” said Shaun Wallen, 50.
The Queen did not join her family in the royal box to watch the show. Neither did Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, who made their first family trip to the UK since stepping back from royal duties and moving to the US in 2020. The couple have remained largely out of the spotlight at Platinum Jubilee events.
The monarch has not appeared in public for Platinum Jubilee events since Thursday, when she smiled and waved on the Buckingham Palace 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 thrilled the country when she appeared in a surprise comedy video that opened a concert Saturday outside Buckingham Palace. In the video, the monarch enjoyed tea with a computer-animated Paddington Bear – and revealed that, just like the furry character, she has a thing for marmalade sandwiches and likes to keep them in her purse.
Diana Ross and rock band Queen headlined the all-star tribute concert on Saturday night, which also included Rod Stewart, Duran Duran, Alicia Keys and Andrea Bocelli.
Prince Charles, the Queen’s eldest son and heir to the throne, highlighted his mother’s role as a symbol of unity and stability over the decades.
Addressing the Queen as “Your Majesty, Mum”, Charles said: “You laugh and cry with us and more importantly you have been there for us for these 70 years.”
On Sunday, Charles and his wife, Camilla, mingled with the crowd at The Oval cricket ground in London for a “Big Jubilee Lunch”. Millions of people across the country also organized long tables, balloons and picnic dishes for street parties and similar patriotic barbecues.
Later on Sunday, celebrities, including singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, will sing “God Save The Queen” outside Buckingham Palace as the competition finale. Many are hoping the monarch will make a second balcony appearance to cap off the weekend of celebrations.
Jo Kearney, Srdjan Nedeljkovic and Maria Grazia Murru contributed to this report.
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