Never has a British sovereign reigned so long. Another is unlikely to achieve such longevity: Crown Prince Charles is 73, his son William will soon be 40.
The historical and patriotic dimension of this platinum jubilee is displayed through tributes, commemorative magazines, exhibitions, retrospectives, special programs, concerts and competitions of all kinds.
For this long four-day weekend, the streets are adorned with large portraits of the Queen, the facades decorated, even in the English countryside, and the markets sell tricolor souvenirs and tableware bearing her effigy.
Celebrations will begin on Thursday with the traditional annual Salute to the Colors military parade, which the 96-year-old Queen once inspected on horseback, followed by an aerial flyover.
The royal family, limited to only members who have official functions and their children, must then appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace around the sovereign, a highly anticipated moment.
Because the health of Elizabeth II worries: since a night in the hospital in October, she has canceled almost all her official appearances, replaced by Charles, including for the solemn speech from the throne in Parliament on May 10.
Frail, she finds it difficult to walk and leans on a cane.
However, she has recently made several surprise appearances, smiling and relaxed, at an equestrian show – she is passionate about horses -, at the inauguration of a new metro line bearing her name, and at the famous horticultural exhibition at the Chelsea Flower Show. in London, by electric cart.
“We were extremely worried about her health recently, but thank heaven she took care of her,” said 79-year-old Phyllis Losh.
This resident of the village of Bidford-on-Avon (central England) remembers with emotion her coronation in 1953, when her father had specially bought a small black and white television. “She does everything with so much dignity.”
The Queen returned to Windsor on Tuesday after a few days of rest at her Scottish castle of Balmoral, aboard a flight disrupted by a thunderstorm and an abortive first landing attempt, according to the tabloid The Sun. Buckingham Palace said there was “no fear for safety”.
On Friday, a mass will be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Very unpopular in the UK, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who have been living in California for two years, are expected to attend, as is Prince Andrew, who paid millions of dollars to end a sexual assault complaint.
The latter, deprived of any official role, “wishes to make amends”, indicated the Archbishop of Canterury and spiritual leader of the Anglican Church, Justin Welby, on ITV.
On Saturday, the Queen is expected at the prestigious Epsom Derby, but according to the press, it is unlikely that she will make the trip for these horse races.
– “Local festivals” –
A big concert will follow at Buckingham Palace in the evening, with some 22,000 people, and among the headliners Alicia Keys, Queen Adam Lambert, Diana Ross. Charles and William will pay tribute to their mother and grandmother who should watch the concert on television.
On Sunday, millions of Britons will take part in thousands of neighborhood lunches and street parties, a joyous break to briefly forget galloping inflation and repeated political scandals.
Pubs were allowed to close later. Sales of sparkling wine, Dubonnet (a popular aperitif for the Queen) and Victoria Sponge Cakes have already exploded.
For Robert Lacey, author of numerous books on the monarchy, “local festivals are as important as the televised ceremonies on the Mall”, the main artery leading to Buckingham Palace.
“They exemplify how Britain sees itself through the monarchy, as a vehicle of our history, our traditions and our values,” he told AFP.
The celebrations will end with a huge parade in London. The 10,000 participants will pay tribute to a sovereign who has gone through times and crises imperturbably, a symbol of unity and the last planetary monarch, whose sense of duty and sometimes humor the British appreciate.
A poll for The Sun placed her this week at 91.7% favorable opinions, against 67.5% for Prince Charles with whom the succession is preparing.