A river pageant for the Queen's Jubilee
RAW VISION: More than one thousand boats prepare to sail down the Thames in a flotilla tribute to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee on Sunday.PT0M0S 620 349
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The Queen wore white. The Duchess of Cambridge wore red - an unhappy choice on a barge carpeted and upholstered in precisely the same shade - and the weather wore grey: grey skies, grey river, and an unceasing grey drizzle of rain.
I don’t see any sign of her working less hard. You never see her say, I’m going to step back a little
"The weather really has deteriorated," mourned one BBC announcer to another, as their cameraman's lens dripped with water. As did the caps of the sailors raising three cheers for her majesty as she sailed down the Thames towards Tower Bridge: they ripped off their hats and swung them in circles and the rain that had been collecting there sprayed around them.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip watch the proceedings from the royal barge. Photo: AP
But, while the wind whipped the white shawl the Queen wrapped around herself against the cold, and she thought it prudent to use her upholstered throne as a windbreak, she was steadfast and true.
She stood her ground throughout the nearly two hours of journeying along the Thames, not sitting down once despite her 86 years, waving a white-gloved hand at the tens of thousands cheering and brandishing their Union Jacks.
The Queen wore a white coat trimmed with silver studs and a silver starburst brooch. The coat was designed by Angela Taylor, and the stark colour was chosen to stand out clearly against the red and gold of the barge.
The flotilla makes its way to Tower Bridge. Photo: Reuters
Other than the rain and cloud, the weather was kind.
The biting east wind was not so strong that the rowboats had to be abandoned, and the current not so strong that the historic narrow-boats - the boats that had plied the nation's trade along its canals for much of its history - had to be left behind.
The Queen was taken to her barge on the launch of the now-decommissioned Royal Yacht Britannia after being greeted by a spontaneous rendition of the national anthem from the crowds.
The Duchess of Cambridge brought a splash of vivid colour on an overcast day.
The barge had been decorated with 10,000 flowers that had been cultivated for months in the palace gardens and its interior was designed to look the the inside of the Orient Express.
Vessels kept to a pre-arranged formation, keeping a boat's length apart from those in front and behind, because "if one boat starts to veer, they all will", said pageant co-ordinator Ian Welsh.
To the accompaniment of booming foghorns and tooting steam whistles, the 1000 vessels motored, steamed and rowed their way along the Thames in a classic piece of British pageantry.
Spectators watch the flotilla from apartments by the Thames. Photo: AFP
A collection of small ships used to rescue stranded troops from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940 was led by the Motor Torpedo boat 102, the flagship of the officer who co-ordinated the evacuation.
Tower Bridge gave a different kind of salute. The drawbridge was raised to its full height in a royal salute as the Queen's barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, passed beneath it.
A huge cheer went up whenever the barge came into sight of the crowds. 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."
Queen Elizabeth II is greeted at Chelsea Pier. Photo: Getty Images
But 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.
Some travellers trying to get into the city found themselves blocked from boarding overcrowded trains, a hint that the city's transport might not hold up to the pressures of the Olympics.
Earlier last night, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he did not think the Queen would ever abdicate.
Elizabeth's jubilant Jubilee
Britain is marking Queen Elizabeth II's 60th year on the throne with a four-day holiday weekend of ceremony, symbolism and street parties. This is only the second time in its history that the UK has celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. The Queen, along with all the members of the royal family, will participate in a River Pageant with a flotilla of 1000 boats accompanying them down the Thames, a free concert at Buckingham Palace, a carriage procession and a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral. Photo: Getty Images
“I don’t see any sign of her working less hard. You never see her say, I’m going to step back a little,” he told the BBC.
In an address to both houses of Parliament earlier this year, the Queen "rededicated” herself to the service of her country for the rest of her life.
Mr Cameron said he believed she will devote herself to her duties until the last and he dismissed suggestions she might step down early if her health suffers, or that she might want to be succeeded by her grandson instead of her eldest son.
A resident celebrates at a Jubilee street party in Manchester. Photo: AFP
"I think both those things are out of the question," Mr Cameron said.
More than 1000 republican demonstrators mounted a protest where they chanted "Monarchy out!"
The Diamond Jubilee river pageant set a new world record for the number of boats taking part in a parade.
The number of boats making their way to Tower Bridge in London easily surpassed the previous record of 327 boats in Bremerhaven, Germany last year.
The record was confirmed by Guinness World Records.
One thousand vessels were expected to complete the pageant.
The new record adds to a substantial list of world records the Queen and her family already hold, according to the Guinness Book of Records' website.
The Queen is the world's longest reigning living queen and will, on September 9, 2015, become the longest reigning British monarch ever when she surpasses Queen Victoria's reign of 63 years, seven months and three days, the website says.
But it adds that the title for the overall longest reigning living monarch is held by King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) of Thailand, who ascended to the throne on June 9, 1946 and has reigned for nearly 66 years.
At the age of 86, the Queen is the oldest British monarch in history, four years older than King George III (1738-1820), who was king until the age of 82. King George III reigned from 1760 to 1820.
She also holds the record for the oldest British queen, which she took on December 21, 2007 from her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who reigned until the age of 81 years and 244 days, the website added.
The website said: "The Queen's lengthy reign gives rise to another Guinness World Records title, longest heir apparent.
"Since his mother acceded to the throne on February 6, 1952, Prince Charles has been heir apparent for over 60 years, passing the mark set by his great-great-grandfather Edward VII, who finally took to the throne upon the death of Queen Victoria on January 22, 1901 after more than 59 years as heir apparent."
The Queen's image holds the world record for the most currencies featuring the same individual.
Her likeness appears on the coinage of at least 45 different countries - more countries than any other living monarch.
Queen Victoria appeared on the coinage of 21 countries and the image of King George V appeared on 19.
The Queen also retains the wealthiest queen title, with a personal fortune estimated at £310 million ($495 million), the website adds.
- with Guardian, Telegraph and PA