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Monday, June 4, 2012

Rocking the Palace

Loyal crowds pack the length of the Mall, with
Buckingham Palace lit up in red, white, and blue
while a finale of fireworks explodes overhead

Amid a gala evening studded with rock stars, red-coated Guardsmen, fantastic light shows, and splendid fireworks, over half a million people assembled in the Mall and 18,000 in stands erected before the gates of Buckingham Palace to dance to the music, wave the Union Jack, and give an almighty cheer of thanks and jubilation to their Queen. The only dim spot in a colorful evening was the absence of the 90-year-old Duke of Edinburgh, who was rushed to hospital this afternoon with a bladder infection, and who will remain there several days, missing tomorrow's service of thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral.

But as so many commentators and members of the public have said, for the Queen duty comes first, and the famous phrase might as well be her personal motto: "Keep Calm and Carry On." Tonight was no exception to that rule, as Her Majesty attended the concert - albeit arriving and hour and a half late - and afterwards lit the last of a world-spanning chain of more than four thousand beacons, to the cheers of her loyal subjects and an epic finale of fireworks and patriotic anthems.

A brief clip of the evening's highlights:

And here is the Prince of Wales's touching tribute to "Your Majesty - Mummy," followed by a great cheer from the crowds for his ailing father, and three cheers for the Queen:

Somewhat fuller clips are at the BBC website, not embeddable here:

Highlights from the Diamond Jubilee Concert

Prince Charles Pays Tribute to the Queen

Telegraph columnist Rowan Pelling shares her thoughts on the upwelling of renewed appreciation for the redoubtable Queen and for the monarchy:
Much has changed over the years, yet the presiding spirit remains the same. It is here, in front of the solid white edifice of Buckingham Palace, that the slumbering behemoth of our island nation is suddenly roused to patriotic fervour – much to the surprise, nowadays, of everyone involved. . . .

I bumped into many people of my generation, who were royal event novices. They gripped their flags with the anxious air of feminists gifted pink fairy wands. These were parents in their late thirties and forties, clutching the hands of sticky princesses, with face-painted infants riding high on their shoulders – all of whom had awoken one day and found that, far from being anarchists, republicans, socialist workers and punks (as they had once avowed back in the Eighties), they were middle-class pillars of the establishment, who now appreciated the benefits of a stable, affable monarchy. . . .

It’s these moments of sudden camaraderie that I find hardest to explain to the cynics and naysayers: the peculiar sense that you really are one big British and Commonwealth family, headed by an extraordinarily admirable matriarch and united by a common heritage. Individuals and insular families are lifted from self-centred lives behind closed front doors and made to feel the unaccustomed glory of nationhood. Complete strangers become neighbours because they are festooned in finery made of Union flags.

My eight-year-old son experienced something of this big-hearted, patriotic zeal on Sunday, as we walked through the streets of London towards the Thames. Dressed in a red, white and blue pirate ship T-shirt accessorised with gem-encrusted Union flag tattoos and carrying a large flag purchased at the Co-op, he drew smiles and comments from passers-by. “Everyone’s talking to each other today,” he said in wonder. “That’s why we have come,” I told him.

I want my boys to know the joyful, yet humbling sensation of being a tiny, atom-like part of an epic historical occasion. I would like them to recognise how fortunate they are to have a non-political head of state who reigns, but does not rule. I want them to know there’s nothing wrong with cheering and waving flags and indulging in occasional bouts of rousing patriotism.

The throngs who will cheer the Queen on her balcony today are justly proud of their monarch and of the 60 years of prosperity and stability most have enjoyed during her reign. Being there to thank her in person is the best way they can demonstrate that pride.

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