OK, so what are the Brits celebrating this weekend?
They are rejoicing at the fact that Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne for 60 years this year, having inherited the job upon the death of her father, George VI, in 1952. It is a bit confusing because George ("Bertie" of King’s Speech fame) actually died in February 1952, but the actual formal coronation did not take place until June the following year (1953). But, let’s face it, you can’t really have a party in London in February.
60? Isn’t a diamond anniversary 75?
It used to be. Traditionally, the golden anniversary was 50 years, and the diamond anniversary of a person or event was on the 75th birthday. This changed with the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the only other British monarch to have spent 60 years on the throne. There was considerable national unrest when Queen Victoria withdrew from public life after Albert’s death in 1861, and it was therefore decided to bring her Diamond Jubilee forward–by 15 years!—to the 60th anniversary in 1897. A diamond anniversary is now usually the 60th, not the 75th, much to the delight of jewelers everywhere.
60 years seems a long time to be in any job. Might she retire soon?
Not a chance. The favored option at this stage is to keep on going forever. The Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, are known to be deeply nervous about the impact on the British people that the unpopular King Charles-and-Queen- Camilla combo will cause. Contrary to popular rumor, Chaz and Camilla have no intention of standing aside to allow William and Kate on the throne. If the Queen lives as long as her mother, she will live another 15 years, which may at least mitigate the damage Charles can do.
What’s happening in London this weekend?
The celebrations kick off in earnest on Sunday with a 1,000-boat flotilla on the Thames, headed up by a ceremonial craft, Gloriana, and the royal barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, which will contain the Queen, Philip, William, Harry, Kate, Charles, and Camilla. It is the first time the monarch and the second, third, and fourth in line to the throne have traveled in the same vehicle. If the boat tips over, it’s a case of arise, King Andrew. Unsurprisingly, the Thames is witnessing the biggest security operation ever undertaken by London’s police force, with all police leave canceled.
Then back to work on Monday?
No, no, and thrice no. For not only is Monday a holiday, but the British people have also been granted an extra day off by Her Maj on Tuesday. Monday is going to be the big party day in London, with a televised Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace and the lighting of a network of 2,012 beacons throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. At 10:30 p.m., the Queen will light the National Beacon outside Buckingham Palace. Tuesday will see yet more celebrations in central London, and some formal set pieces, including a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral followed by two receptions, a lunch at Westminster Hall, a carriage procession to Buckingham Palace and finally a balcony appearance and flypast. Tuesday is already being colloquially referred to as “hangover day’” by party loving Brits, and Wednesday as “hell day.”
Is everyone in Britain into this?
It seems like it. Shops are covered in Union Jacks, bunting has sold out, and everyone loves an excuse to bake patriotic cookies. But a protest group called Republic have been authorized to hold an anti-monarchist meeting on the banks of the Thames during the riverboat pageant, and it is thought 1,000 people may attend. Also annoyed at all the frivolity are flinty economists, who say that the celebrations could cost the U.K., which is stuck in the brutal euro slump, anywhere from £1.2bn to £3.6bn pounds in lost earnings.
Has there been any mention of Princess Diana?
Not a peep. The first anyone heard of the Queen of Hearts from a senior royal for a long time was during William’s interview with Katie Couric when he spoke about her having “the best seat in the house” at his wedding. Pass the handkerchiefs.
Is Pippa involved?
Pippa Middleton–or more accurately, her butt—was the surprise hit of last year’s royal wedding. As Pippa is not a royal, despite the fact that her sister will one day be queen, she won’t be on the royal barge. But the Middleton family, including her brother and flatmate, cake entrepreneur James, will be at the forefront of the riverboat pageant on another craft. She probably won’t be wearing a figure-hugging McQueen gown this time, but she does have a book to promote later this year, so you never know.