LONDON — In a crowning moment for her Platinum Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth II appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on Sunday, delighting fans who had hoped to catch a glimpse of her on the final day of festivities marking the monarch’s 70th birthday on the throne.
The 96-year-old monarch has reduced her schedule in recent months due to travel issues. Before Sunday, the Queen had only appeared in public twice during the four-day holiday weekend celebrations. Officials said she felt “discomfort” during those events on Thursday.
Thousands of people gathered outside Buckingham Palace for the climax of a loud and colorful spectacle, applauded when the monarch appeared on the balcony with her son and heir, Prince Charles, his wife Camilla and his grandson. eldest son, Prince William, and his family.
The queen, dressed in bright green, waved and smiled after the crowd shouted ‘God Save The Queen’. Her appearance, which lasted just a few minutes, was followed by a much-loved rendition of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.”
It was an uplifting finale to a massive street spectacle celebrating the Queen’s life and highlighting Britain’s diversity. Thousands of people took to the streets of London, many speaking enthusiastically and proudly about their Queen and their country.
Sunday’s spectacle began with a spectacular military parade with 200 horses marching through 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. A virtual version of her, taken from archival video of her 1953 coronation, was shown at 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 kilometer (almost 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 sleek Aston Martins of James Bond. Celebrities, including singer Cliff Richard, danced and sang in open-top double-decker buses designed to represent the sights and sounds of every decade, starting with the 1950s.
“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 expected the contest 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 to see the celebrities who performed – like Ed Sheeran, who sang his song ‘Perfect’ while a huge video screen showed photos of the Queen and her family – while others just wanted to be part of it. 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 away from royal duties and moving to the US in 2020. The couple came to the UK for the big holiday weekend, but largely stayed out of the limelight during the Platinum Jubilee events.
Thousands of people rushed into the mall after the parade ended in a bid to see the Queen, filling the huge expanse within minutes.
The monarch delighted the country when she appeared in a surprise comedy video which opened a concert on 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 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 have also set up long tables, balloons and picnic dishes for street parties and similar patriotic barbecues.
More Must-Have Stories from TIME