Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant cheered by crowds

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More than one million rain-soaked people have watched the Queen’s 1,000-boat Diamond Jubilee pageant weave its way along the Thames, organisers say.

The Queen’s barge travelled among the flotilla of tugs, steamers, pleasure cruisers, dragon boats and kayaks.

The London event was the highlight of the Jubilee weekend, but a fly-past was cancelled because of the weather.

Some 10,000 people joined a Greenwich street party, one of many in the UK marking 60 years of the Queen’s reign.

The pageant – believed to be the Thames’s most spectacular in 350 years – started at Albert Bridge with the ringing of Jubilee bells at 14:40 BST and ended as the last vessel completed the seven-mile route to Tower Bridge just after 18:00 BST.

The Queen, dressed in a white hat and a silver and white coat designed by Angela Kelly, travelled on the Spirit of Chartwell, which was decorated with 10,000 flowers from the royal estates.

She was accompanied by her family, including the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Philippa Thomas
The biggest river pageant the modern Thames has ever seen ended with a brief flurry of fireworks, a stalwart tooting of horns and a final round of cheers from the river bank.

Here on the south side of Tower Bridge, hundreds of spectators stuck it out to the end.

They were drenched to the skin, but managed a chorus of Land of Hope and Glory – and a jolly few even swayed along as they waved their sodden Union flags.

They’d waited for hours in good cheer through cold, mist and showers until they had had their glimpse of the Queen.

She was, in truth, just a tiny figure on the Royal Barge, but the point at which the monarch passed by – especially with Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, beside her – was a moment many were determined to be able to say they’d witnessed.

A boat carrying eight specially-cast Jubilee bells led the water-borne procession, with churches along the river bank returning the peal as it passed. There were 10 musical barges, carrying choirs and orchestras.

The Spirit of Chartwell left Cadogan Pier once the rowing boats in the flotilla had safely passed. Leading the rowing boats was the million-pound row barge Gloriana, with Olympic gold medallists Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave among its 18 rowers.

A collection of small ships used to rescue stranded troops from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940 also took part, led by the Motor Torpedo boat 102, the flagship of the officer who co-ordinated the evacuation.

Some 20,000 people were thought to have been in the boats of the flotilla, which travelled at 4 knots (4.6 miles) an hour, with the Thames barrier closed to slow the river’s flow.

A huge cheer went up whenever the royal barge came into the crowds’ sights. Hungarian Laura Konig, 34, who lives in the London borough of Sutton, said: “I really enjoy the music. When the boats with bands come by it’s brilliant and the atmosphere is so cool. The weather could be better but apart from that it’s an amazing day.”

The Queen smiled at the sight of a life-size puppet horse – from the play War Horse – which was running along the rooftop of the National Theatre. The Queen pointed out the performance to Camilla.

Dozens of spectators at Tower Bridge were disappointed as security staff blocked off pathways due to fears of overcrowding, more than an hour before the flotilla was due to arrive.
Surprise royal guests join Diamond Jubilee street party
Tower Bridge raised as the royal barge approached, with heavy rain returning to the London skies as it moored to allow the Queen to watch the rest of the flotilla pass.

The final music barge carrying members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir stopped next to the royal barge for a short performance.

As it played a nautical tune, the Queen bobbed slightly, while the Duchess of Cornwall moved in time to the music.

The Guinness World Records said the pageant had set a new world record for the largest parade of boats, surpassing the previous record of 327 in Bremerhaven, Germany, last year.

BBC Big Screens transmitted live coverage of the pageant in 22 locations around the UK including Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Middlesbrough.

Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to the 86-year-old Queen during an interview on BBC One’s Andrew Marr programme earlier, saying: “Her insight and her sharpness is extraordinary and I don’t see any sign of her working less hard.” His own Jubilee party in Downing Street was moved indoors because of the weather.

In Piccadilly, central London, before the pageant, the BBC’s Sangita Myska said there had been a “huge crush” as well-wishers flocked to greet a surprise visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall to a street party where 500 tables had been set up.

BBC © 2012

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