Britain will mark Queen Elizabeth’s record 70th birthday on the throne this week with four days of celebrations, from military parades and a church service to street parties and a pop concert outside Buckingham Palace.
Elizabeth, 96, celebrated seven decades on the throne in February, and two public holidays were postponed to create a four-day weekend for nationwide events celebrating her reign from June 2 to 5.
It is unclear how many of these the monarch herself will attend, since she has been forced to miss a number of official events in recent months due to what Buckingham Palace calls “occasional mobility problems.” Royal officials say a decision on her attendance will be made the same day.
Paying tribute to “Elizabeth the Great” in Parliament last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said her service and dedication to duty were unparalleled.
“I hope that in the coming days we can … show with every bonfire, with every concert, street party and pilotage the love and devotion to reciprocate the love, devotion and leadership that she has shown to the entire country over seven decades,” he said.
The four days of events will begin Thursday with the traditional “Banner Choice” military parade in central London, followed by a flight of modern and historic aircraft.
The queen is also scheduled to appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to greet the crowd, though two of the most controversial members of the royal family – her son Prince Andrew and grandson Prince Harry – will be absent.
In February, Andrew settled a lawsuit in the United States in which he was accused of sexually abusing Virginia Giuffre. He had previously resigned from public office because of his ties to the late convicted U.S. sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Harry, the youngest son of Prince Charles’s heir, also gave up royal duties to move with his American wife Meghan to Los Angeles, from where they delivered barbs and accusations of racism against the royal family.
Nevertheless, both are likely to attend other events over the long weekend. Another notable absentee will be her late husband Prince Philip, who died at age 99 last April after 73 years by her side.
SERVICE, RACES AND PARTIES.
There will be a Thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on Friday, and the queen is scheduled to attend Derby races with other family members on Saturday. Later, there will be a concert outside Buckingham Palace featuring rock band Queen, pop group Duran Duran and American singer Diana Ross.
The celebrations will conclude Sunday with street parties and a theatrical performance in the British capital.
Elizabeth became queen of Britain and more than a dozen other kingdoms, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, after the death of her father, King George VI, on Feb. 6, 1952, when she was in Kenya on an international tour.
At the time, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Harry Truman led the Soviet Union, China and the United States, and Winston Churchill was prime minister of Great Britain.
In September 2015, she overtook her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria to become the longest reigning monarch in nearly 1,000 years in a line that traces its origins to the Norman King William I and his conquest of England in 1066.
During her seven decades on the throne, the queen has been a symbol of stability for the country during a time of enormous social, economic and political change, including the end of the British Empire.
“Not only is your majesty a constant presence in the lives of most of your subjects, but you are also the third longest reigning monarch in world history,” the Speaker of the House of Commons said in a statement.
Polls show that she remains very popular and respected, although they suggest a growing indifference to the monarchy among young people.
A YouGov poll for the Republic campaign group last Thursday also found that more than half of those surveyed had no interest in the anniversary.
“Instead of being a national holiday, the Jubilee is of minority interest,” said Graham Smith of Republic. “The lack of interest across the country and in all age groups under 65 shows that the future of the monarchy is in serious doubt.”