AFP, published on Thursday, May 26, 2022 at 07:13
Parade, picnic across the country, concert and royal family on the balcony: the United Kingdom celebrates next week the 70 years of reign of Elizabeth II, a historic record celebrated in a period of transition for the monarchy.
Tested by the divisions of Brexit, tired by the pandemic and its confinements and now strangled by rising prices, the British will be able to take advantage of a long weekend from Thursday June 2.
If the recent health and mobility problems of the 96-year-old queen have raised fears that she is in withdrawal, the sovereign has multiplied surprise appearances in recent days, to inaugurate a metro line bearing her name, attend a equestrian show or browse the aisles of a major horticultural event in a golf cart with driver.
But a sign of the ongoing transition, her son Prince Charles, heir to the crown, replaced her for the annual speech marking the start of the parliamentary year. He has already been responsible for representing it abroad for several years.
Before MPs on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will pay tribute to the head of state, “rock” to which the British have been “anchored” for seven decades, a “remarkable woman” who “dedicated her life to her people”, at Commonwealth and “to the very idea of what a constitutional monarchy can and should be”, according to excerpts from his speech.
Elizabeth II came to the throne at age 25 on February 6, 1952, when her father King George VI died of lung cancer aged 56.
Doyen of living sovereigns, she recently rose to third place in terms of longevity among the monarchs of sovereign states, overtaken by the King of France Louis XIV, who died in 1715 and the King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX ), who died in 2016.
– Giant picnic –
In London, from Oxford Street to the Mall, an ocher macadam avenue that leads to Buckingham Palace, the flags are displayed proudly, foreshadowing the scale of the festivities.
They will begin on Thursday with Trooping The Colour, which marks the Queen’s official birthday, with more than 1,500 soldiers and musicians, 240 horses and an overview of the Royal Air Force.
The traditional balcony appearance will be limited to working members of the royal family. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, although visiting from their Californian exile, were excluded, as well as Prince Andrew, who had to pay millions of pounds to avoid a trial in the United States for sexual assault.
Also on the program, a religious ceremony at Saint Paul’s Cathedral on Friday and horse racing and a big party at Buckingham Palace on Saturday.
In total, more than 200,000 events are planned, and organizers expect 10 million people to attend Jubilee picnics on Sunday June 5.
On this day, a large parade will pay tribute to the monarch and to the diversity of the British people. It will bring together 10,000 soldiers, artists and volunteers. Counting all forms of distribution worldwide, the show should be seen by a billion people, according to the organizers.
– “Very British, very eccentric” –
“The scale is monumental,” Adrian Evans, conductor of the parade, recently told AFP, promising a “very, very British, very eccentric” show.
Among the various paintings in the parade, one will pay a more personal tribute to the queen, notably featuring corgis and horses, animals to which the sovereign is particularly attached.
For the occasion, pubs will be able to open until one in the morning, two hours longer than usual. Beer will flow: The British Beer and Pub association estimates that 90 million pints of beer will be sold for the Jubilee, and the sector will benefit from a £105 million (€124 million) boost .
According to a study published by the British Future think tank, two thirds of the population are interested in the Jubilee and a majority believe that it represents an opportunity to unite. 58% want to keep the monarchy, while 25% believe that the end of the reign of Elizabeth II would be the right time for the United Kingdom to become a Republic.
But, underlines the study, the lower support among young people and among ethnic minorities reflects the need for the monarchy to modernize if it wants to remain in the hearts of all Britons.