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Britons Go All Out for Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee

June 4, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is only the second monarch to mark 60 years on the throne. Jubilee celebrations began Saturday with a royal visit to the Epsom Racecourse in South London and wrap up Tuesday. Tim Ewart and Andy Davies of Independent Television News report.
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GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, Britain’s four-day anniversary party for Queen Elizabeth. She’s only the second monarch to mark 60 years on the throne. The last was her great-great grandmother, Victoria, who reached the milestone in 1897.

The jubilee celebrations began on Saturday with the queen’s visit to the Epsom racetrack in South London to present the winner’s trophy. And the pageantry continued Sunday, despite cold and blustery conditions.

We have two reports from London beginning with yesterday’s events.

That story comes from Tim Ewart of Independent Television News.

TIM EWART: London had seen nothing like it since the lavish river processions of the 17 and 18th centuries. They carried the queen down the Thames on a tide of devotion, 60 years on the throne, a monarch in an age where privilege and authority have increasingly been questioned, but whose popularity, it seems, has never been greater.

WOMAN: It’s been a fantastic day. We have had a great day. We had the rain. We expected the rain. We saw the queen. We laughed, we danced. We sang with people. We waved our flags. It was what we wanted.

TIM EWART: Sharing this journey, the new generation of royals, the duke and duchess of Cambridge, who have reignited a global fascination with the House of Windsor.

Leading the way, the floating belfry, a Thames barge, Ursula Catherine, carrying newly founded bells. Next, the row barge Gloriana built for the occasion, powered by 18 oars men and women; 260 other man-powered boats followed in its wake.

There, too, the little ships of Dunkirk, perhaps the proudest members of this great flotilla, and none on board prouder than 95-year-old Vic Viner, a Dunkirk veteran.

VIC VINER, Royal Navy veteran: I never expected in my lifetime to be here, not in my wildest dreams. It’s great.

TIM EWART: The queen was on board the Spirit of Chartwell, a river cruiser magnificently converted for the occasion.

This is the ultimate symbol of the sentiment this jubilee has stirred in Britain. In one opinion poll today, 55 percent said they thought the monarchy would last forever. If that sounds excessive, it’s not hard to understand in an atmosphere like this.

They opened Tower Bridge to allow the monarch to pass. It was by now terrible weather. But the rain could not spoil the queen’s extraordinary parade. The London Philharmonic Orchestra played the “Hornpipe,” and there was the faintest suggestion of bobbing up and down from the diamond jubilee queen.

JEFFREY BROWN: Today, there was a different kind of cloud over the festivities, as Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, fell ill.

Andy Davies of Independent Television News has that part of the story.

ANDY DAVIES: As a former admiral of the fleet and a midshipman who saw active service during the Second World War, the duke of Edinburgh was clearly in his element yesterday aboard the royal barge.

But for a man who is nearly 91 years old, it was a long day. For at least three hours yesterday afternoon, he watched the pageant before him, standing for much of it, as the rain dripped from the canopy above him. The duke was taken this afternoon from Windsor Castle to this central London hospital. He developed a bladder infection, said a spokesman for Buckingham Palace, just a precautionary measure for observation.

But it will leave the queen without him by her side during tomorrow’s carriage procession, balcony appearance, and Service of Thanksgiving at Saint Paul’s, the diamond jubilee’s grand finale. It’s cast something of a shadow over tonight’s pop concert at Buckingham Palace, where thousands gathered this afternoon in the Mall to try to catch a glimpse of the headline acts.

MAN: Well, obviously, it would be nice to see him. But with things the way they are, he’s got to go to hospital. Everyone is having a great time here today. So, it’s just about to kick off, and we’re really looking forward to it.

WOMAN: It’s sad, yes. Just heard the news now. Hopefully, he will get better soon. Hopefully, it’s not too serious.

MAN: A shame that she can’t have him by her side, because they’re such an amazing couple. And like you always see them together. It’s not just her. It’s them.

ANDY DAVIES: Pop concerts at the palace for jubilees appear de rigueur these days, those 10,000 who won tickets to watch the concert picnic this afternoon alongside Princess Eugenie and Beatrice in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, while, on the other side of the world, in Australia, Tonga, and New Zealand, the first of 4,000 beacons were lit in honor of the queen’s 60-year reign, 60 years in which she is rarely seen on these occasions without Prince Philip by her side.

GWEN IFILL: The flag-waving fans gathered on the palace grounds, heard music royalty. Performing this evening on stage were Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Sir Tom Jones, and Stevie Wonder, among others.

The celebrations end tomorrow with a service at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, a carriage procession, and a farewell wave from the royal family to crowds gathered at Buckingham Palace. The queen has met all the U.S. presidents from Truman to Obama, save one. Find out who is missing in a special diamond jubilee slide show on our website.