To mark 60 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, England will hold Diamond Jubilee celebrations all over the country, the events centering around an extended weekend from June 2 to June 5.
For London, 2012 is one of the biggest years in its peacetime history. Not only are England’s capital and its environs hosting the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games from July 27 to August 12 and August 29 to September 9 respectively, but London is also the location for several of the major events being held throughout the year to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – including the biggest.
The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on Sunday, June 3 will see a procession of 1,000 boats travel down the River Thames, from Battersea to Tower Bridge, flanking the Royal Barge which will transport the Queen.
This procession, which will include vessels of all shapes and sizes from around the world, including tall ships and square riggers, fishing and cargo boats, yachts, tugs, steamers and canoes, is expected to be the biggest televised event ever to take place.
“The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant is a remarkable undertaking and a fantastic draw for London,” said Lady Cobham, chairman of VisitEngland, England’s national tourist board. “However, the rest of England has also been gripped by the occasion and there are celebrations taking place throughout the country, from the royal family’s official residences, stately homes and national galleries, to parks and public spaces and in private gardens and family homes.”
Here are some highlights of the Diamond Jubilee-year calendar:
● Sixty Photographs for Sixty Years, The Drawings Gallery, Windsor Castle: Opening on February 4, an exhibition of 60 photographs of The Queen, including the work of leading press photographers of the past six decades, will go on display at Windsor Castle. The exhibition presents a portrait of The Queen’s reign as captured in moments on both official occasions and at relaxed family gatherings. The exhibition includes pictures of Queen Elizabeth II on regional and international official visits, leading the nation on Remembrance Day, in the Garter Day procession at Windsor, hosting Heads of State and inspecting the graduating officer cadets at Sandhurst. It also records important personal and family milestones and Queen Elizabeth II’s lifelong love of equestrianism and of her corgis. The exhibition will run until January 2013. For more information, visit www.royalcollection.org.uk;
● The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned at Hampton Court Palace: Running from April 5 to September 30, this royal-themed exhibition tells a story about the fascination of love, glamour, celebrity, lust and power and involves some of the key characters that lived, loved and died at Hampton Court Palace – Charles II, James II, William III and Queen Mary II and Queen Anne. Beauty was a good thing: it was a reflection of divine perfection, an indication of virtue. This temporary exhibition will contain magnificent artworks to reveal the stories and scandals, and will include items from the Royal Collection and other public and private collections, many of which are not currently on display. For more information, go to www.hrp.org.uk;
● The World Comes to Windsor Castle: Held in the private grounds of Windsor Castle on the evenings of May 10, May 11 and May 13, the Diamond Jubilee Pageant will pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II’s 60-year reign in a performance that brings together more than 500 horses and 800 international performers. Dance, music, military and equestrian displays from around the world will feature in this show: Around the World in 60 Years and 90 minutes. Visitors will be taken on a journey around the world, reflective of the Queen’s State and Commonwealth visits during her reign, starting out from London and visiting the Americas, Australasia, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and finally Great Britain. The seven acts draw from their respective continents, ensuring a colorful cultural display. Tickets are available at www.diamond-jubilee-pageant.com;
● Diamond Jubilee Beacons – various locations: England has a centuries-long history of beacon-lighting to mark national events and the beacon is widely recognized as a symbol of united celebration. On June 4, beacons will be lit across the whole of the United Kingdom, as they were for the Queen’s Silver and Golden Jubilees. Locations already confirmed include the highest school in England, Flash Church of England school in Staffordshire (which has just 10 pupils); three of His Grace the Duke of Westminster’s estates in Sutherland, Cheshire and Lancashire; and 60 beacons along the length of Hadrian’s Wall – one for every year of the Queen’s reign. For more information, go to www.diamondjubileebeacons.co.uk;
● Go Down to the (Diamond) Woods – various locations: To celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, the Woodland Trust is helping millions of people to come together with their communities to plant 6 million trees. The Jubilee Woods Project, fronted by Patron HRH The Princess Royal, aims to create hundreds of Jubilee Woods across the country, and 60 special Diamond Woods, of at least 60 acres – to transform England’s landscape in a generation and provide a lasting legacy for many years to come. This includes the Trust’s new Flagship Diamond Wood in the heart of The National Forest in Leicestershire, a haven for wildlife and a monument to Her Majesty. To find out more or get involved, visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk;
● Partake in a Big Jubilee Lunch – countrywide: Building on the established Big Lunch initiative, the Big Jubilee Lunch will encourage friends and neighbors to share lunch in their local neighborhoods on Sunday, June 3. Based on the premise that a connected community is a safe and happy community, the Big Lunch Initiative was founded by the Eden Project in Cornwall in 2009 and provides the tools and support needed for members of the public to organize and encourage shared neighbour lunches once a year, and as a result to build lasting and valuable connections. The initiative hopes to double participation numbers in 2012, and to create an annual Thanksgiving Day of sorts, for England’s residents. To find out more about joining a Big Lunch, visit www.thebiglunch.com; and
● A Capital Celebration – London’s Exhibitions: In addition to the river pageant, London will host several exhibitions on the Royal Family and the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Showing at the Victoria & Albert Museum from February 8 to April 22, Cecil Beacon’s Royal Portraits will include 60 photographs depicting the Royal Family at home and on official occasions. A new permanent exhibition opening at Kensington Palace on March 26, Victoria Revealed, will look at the life and reign of Queen Victoria – England’s longest-reigning monarch – while Tower Bridge will be re-presenting the Crown Jewels exhibition for the Jubilee year, with new displays showing the jewels as never before.