Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant

Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant

Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant

London The Thames on Lord Mayor's Day - Canaletto

London The Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day – Canaletto

2-3 years in the planning, the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant that took place today on the River Thames in London to mark Queen Elisabeth 60 years on the throne is the largest event of its kind on the river since Handel performed his water Music over 300 years ago.

Over 1,000 boats took place, tens of thousands lined the banks of the Thames to watch.

In the morning trains to London were full, leaving passengers stranded at the stations. The organisers estimated 1.3 million people in London for the event, though how do they know?

The flotilla was led by row boats of all shapes and sizes. They came from all over the world. I was surprised to see Venetian gondoliers.

Also somewhere near the front was a floating belfry with church bells. One of many music boats. Church bells rang all along the route.

The row boats led the way and set the pace for the rest of the flotilla. The Royal Barge tucked in behind the row boats, all the other boats followed the Royal Barge.

Kate (Duchess of Cambridge) looked stunning. The epitome of style. A rarity with English women who lack style.

Kate was in Red. Queen Elisabeth in White. A wise choice as both colours stood out against the grey of the river and the increasingly greyness of the day.

The day started of with drizzle. The weather slowly deteriorated, so that by the time Tower Bridge was reached, it was chucking it down with rain.

The Royal Party on the Royal Barge stood during the entire journey, and remained standing whilst moored beyond Tower Bridge until ever single boat has passed.

The draw bridges of Tower Bridge each weigh 120,000 tons. They can be raised to 80 degrees in less than 60 seconds.

Coverage by BBC was excellent. No mean achievement in the rain. The commentary was excellent too. But did the BBC have to keep cutting to presenters in a studio with plastic smiles who kept talking moronic drivel?

When the Royal Barge passed under Tower Bridge an amazing manoeuvre by the captain. He must have cut the engines to come drifting in sideways to where he was moored. Brilliant timing.

I was on the Napa King last week. The Captain was able to come up to the pier backwards and stop within about a foot of the pier, and that was at sea.

The last boat was a music barge with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir. As they passed under Tower Bridge, Land of Hope and Glory (last night of the Proms), Jupiter (from Holst, The Planets) Rule Britannia and National Anthem.

The orchestra was under cover, but not the singers. They were on top of the barge, they must have been soaked to the skin, and yet they sang with enthusiasm.

A very memorable day, the like of which none of us are likely to see again in our lifetimes.

The inspiration for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant was a painting London: The Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day by Canaletto (from the Lobkowicz Collections, Czech Republic). Currently part of an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

The pageant put the forthcoming London Olympics to shame, and unlike the London 2012 Olympics, no corporate sponsors.

Thames Diamond Jubilee Foundation was responsible for the day.

In the 1970s, I was in Cornwall, at a little village called Golant, where they had a jubilee celebration on the banks of the River Fowey on their little village green.

In the 1990s, another jubilee celebration. On the Hog’s Back overlooking Guildford, one of many beacons lit through the night.

Tomorrow, ie Tuesday, a big rock concert outside Buckingham Palace with Paul McCartney, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Robbie Williams, ending with a firework display and more than 4,000 beacons are due to be lit in the UK and around the world.

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