Share this article

print logo

Queen's jubilee kicks off at races

It was a royal day at the races Saturday, as Queen Elizabeth II watched a horse with the courtly name of Camelot win the Epsom Derby -- the kickoff to a four-day celebration of the British monarch's 60 years on the throne.

Today the queen will make a trip down the River Thames where an armada of vessels -- from historic sailboats and barges to kayaks, lifeboats and military launches -- was mustering for the river pageant. The queen aboard the royal barge will lead the flotilla of 1,000 boats, described by organizers as the biggest gathering on the river in 50 years.

Diamond Jubilee festivities officially began with a 41-gun salute fired by the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery at Horse Guards Parade in central London.

The 86-year-old monarch and her husband, Prince Philip, visited Epsom racecourse south of the capital for the Derby, one of the year's biggest horse-racing meetings. The queen waved to the 130,000-strong crowd as she was driven down the racecourse in a Bentley bearing the Royal Standard before settling down to watch the races from the royal box.

The queen was accompanied by members of the royal family, including her sons Prince Andrew and Prince Edward and Andrew's daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.

The royals were treated to an aerial display by members of the British Army's Red Devils parachute team before the main event -- the racing.

The monarch is a racing fan and horse breeder who has attended the Derby for decades and reads the Racing Post each day over breakfast, although unlike many of her subjects she does not gamble.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to participate in celebrations, including street parties, today's flotilla and a Monday pop concert in front of Buckingham Palace featuring Elton John and Paul McCartney.

Jubilee events end Tuesday with a religious service at St. Paul's Cathedral, a carriage procession through the streets of London and the queen's appearance with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the palace balcony.

Prime Minister David Cameron -- the 12th British leader of the queen's reign -- paid tribute to the monarch's "extraordinary level of physical energy, mental energy, and above all devotion to her people, to the institutions of this country, to the way our democracy works."

Not everyone in Britain will be celebrating. The anti-monarchist group Republic plans a riverbank protest as the flotilla goes by today, followed by a pub night where royal refuseniks can drown their sorrows.

With pictures of the monarch splashed across newspaper front pages, the left-leaning Guardian provided a button on its website that removed all jubilee stories.

But many Britons embraced the jubilee spirit -- a tribute to a monarch whose popularity cuts across all ages, social classes and political affiliations.

In a jubilee gift from Britain's politicians, lawmakers from the three main parties have backed a motion calling for the tower housing Big Ben to be renamed in the queen's honor.

More than half of legislators have signed a letter asking parliamentary authorities to consider renaming the east tower of the Houses of Parliament the Elizabeth Tower. It's currently called the Clock Tower.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the Anglican Church, said Britain had been lucky to have Elizabeth as monarch throughout a period of rapid change.

"It seems to me that what her importance has been for most people in this country has been as a sign of stability, a sign of some kind of security," he said in a jubilee video message.

There are no comments - be the first to comment