LONDON – Pealing church bells, artillery salutes and crowds cheering “God save the queen!” greeted Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday, the last of four days of Diamond Jubilee celebrations honoring her 60 years on the throne.
Poignantly, the queen was without Prince Philip, her husband of 64 years, who was hospitalized Monday for treatment of a bladder infection.
At a morning service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, praised the queen for bringing happiness to the nation. His thoughts were seconded by jubilant crowds that cheered royals major and minor as they made their way to and from the church.
The queen returned to Buckingham Palace in the afternoon, braving the first few drops of rain in an open carriage, later to appear on the palace balcony with the present and future of the monarchy: her heir, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla; Prince William, the second-in-line, and his wife, Kate; and William’s brother, Prince Harry.
There were more cheers as a noisy Lancaster bomber, four Spitfire fighters and a Hurricane fighter – all recalling the nation’s battle for survival in World War II – emerged from the leaden skies to fly over the palace. They were followed by nine jets spewing red, white and blue smoke.
The crowds, forming a sea of bobbing umbrellas, stretched all the way down the Mall, the wide road leading to Buckingham Palace. As the Irish Guards doffed their bearskin hats to lead three cheers for the queen, the 86-year-old monarch beamed.
In a rare televised statement, the queen said the jubilee celebrations had been “a humbling experience.”
“I will continue to treasure and draw inspiration from the countless kindnesses shown to me in this country and throughout the Commonwealth,” the monarch said in a two-minute broadcast.