The momentous occasion comes as a world weary from lockdowns begins to venture out once more, hungry for the familiar sights and sounds of community celebrations.
In the United Kingdom, the Platinum Jubilee celebrations are a bonus four-day bank holiday that is set to see thousands of gatherings both large and small, ranging from festivities on The Mall to lunches in backyards and village squares finally blooming after a long, hard winter.
The colourful parade known as Trooping the Colour on Thursday marked the official kickoff to the celebrations, as well as the Queen’s official birthday. Thousands of officers and soldiers marched in neat rows through The Mall, packed to bursting around the edges by onlookers cramming in for a peek.
After several days of characteristically British rain and clouds, the sun came out as people navigated their way through central London’s streets. Those who managed to snag a spot along the main street got a glimpse of not one but two future queens as the ceremonies got underway.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Kate Middleton, officially known as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, shared a carriage with the three Cambridge children: George, Charlotte and Louis.
The parade was briefly interrupted at one point as a man ran out in front of the horses, according to The Associated Press.
Police quickly removed the individual.
All eyes were on the Buckingham Palace balcony as well, as the Royal Family gathered to take in the packed crowds outside and watch a Royal Air Force flyover — though Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, were not on that balcony.
Instead, Queen Elizabeth and her son, Prince Charles, greeted the thousands gathered outside from the balcony, along with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge along with their children.
As fighter jets and aircraft roared through the air, one grouping of them arranged into a careful formation to mark out the number 70 — a tribute to the seven decades on the throne being celebrated with the Platinum Jubilee.
With the four-day bank holiday ahead, the celebrations are just getting started.
On June 3, there will be a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral, along with the Platinum Party at the Palace on June 4 and the Platinum Jubilee Pageant on June 5.
Global News will have special coverage on the ground from London, U.K. on our website, social media and on TV, including a full wrap showcasing the days of celebrations on June 5 at 2 p.m. ET.
But amid the celebrations, there remain questions over how the monarchy can remain relevant and what role it can or should play in the countries of the Commonwealth.
Royals have been through a 'reckoning,' says expert
The last several years have seen a “reckoning” for the British Royal Family, said one expert.
In an interview with Global News, broadcaster and journalist Afua Hagan said the political turmoil of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson being under fire for breaking COVID-19 rules combined with frustration among people about the chaos at airports is “overshadowing” the event as well.
“And I think also, the Royal Family has been through a bit of a reckoning in the past few years. Prince Andrew, what’s happened with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle,” she said.
“And some island nations in the Caribbean talking about removing the Queen as head of state. Barbados did it. The Bahamas are talking about it as well, and possibly Jamaica, too. So I think actually right now, people are kind of split down the middle when it comes to the Royal Family,” Hagan added.
“I think there’s great affinity for the Queen up and down the country and across the Commonwealth, and I think that will remain. But I think when it comes to the mood in the country, 50 per cent of people are quite cynical, and 50 per cent of people will hang out the bunting.”
Canadian royal commentator Edward Wang acknowledged that there have been questions about what role the monarchy can or should play in a modern world but said for him, the benefits are clear.
Wang came to Canada as a child from China and said he came to love the Queen while learning about her in school. He described her dedication and service to her people as some of the key attributes he admires so greatly of her.
He also said the role she can play stepping in if an elected leader ever tries to subvert democracy makes the role of a constitutional monarch valuable when compared to the alternative republican model in countries like the U.S., and pointed to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol as an example.
“We have the leader of the free world trying to subvert a democratically elected new president,” Wang said. “That’s a situation that we wouldn’t have in countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom in Australia, because we do have a constitutional monarch who is above politics and who can step in if we have a wayward prime minister who refuses to give up power.”
“So that’s a prime example of why we need the monarchy and why the monarchy is still relevant.”
Wang also pointed to the work the Royal Family members do without the political agenda that typically fuels the work of politicians.
“So whereas I think politicians are always doing something to further their own political career or trying to see if they can sway the next electoral results, the Royal Family are doing things just for the good of society,” he said. “I think that’s why they’re still relevant in terms of championing, for example, environmental and sustainability issues.”
But that may not be enough to endear the monarchy and the Royal Family to a younger generation, Hagan said. She said there was a “missed opportunity” to bring the Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, into the fold and revitalize the institution.
“I think a lot of young people now are feeling like, if you have a difference then the Royal Family isn’t for you,” Hagan said.
“And a lot of young people do think they’re different, so the Royal Family isn’t for them.”