* London flotilla to be among jubilee highlights
* Some 1,000 boats will sail with queen
* Monarchy enjoying broad popularity
By Mike Collett-White and Michael Holden
LONDON, June 3 A flotilla of 1,000 boats will
sail London's River Thames on Sunday in a spectacular highlight
of four days of nationwide celebrations marking Queen
Elizabeth's 60 years on the throne.
Around one million people are expected to line the 7-mile
(11 km) route of the armada accompanying a royal barge carrying
the 86-year-old monarch, her husband Prince Philip and leading
members of the royal family.
Up and down the country hundreds of thousands more will take
to streets adorned in red, white and blue "Union Jack" flags for
diamond jubilee parties to honour the second British monarch to
mark the milestone.
The only other was her great-great-grandmother Queen
Victoria in 1897, and while Britain is no longer a superpower
whose empire straddles the globe, surveys show the royal family
is enjoying its strongest public support in decades.
The Saturday-to-Tuesday holiday comes just over a year after
the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, an extravaganza
of pomp and pageantry that led news bulletins the world over and
boasted a global audience of up to two billion people.
The queen kicked off the jubilee celebrations with a visit
on Saturday to the Epsom Derby in southern England, indulging
her life-long passion for horse racing, and a special gun salute
boomed from the historic Tower of London.
On Monday the monarch hosts a pop concert outside her London
residence Buckingham Palace, where Paul McCartney and Stevie
Wonder will be among the acts. Madness are set to take to the
roof of the famous landmark to belt out hit song "Our House".
The long weekend concludes with a service of thanksgiving at
St. Paul's Cathedral on Tuesday followed by a carriage
procession along the broad Mall leading to Buckingham Palace
where the queen will wave to the crowds from the balcony.
QUEEN RIDING HIGH
Not everyone supports the royal family.
The small yet vocal republican movement, which plans a
protest during the flotilla, called the jubilee "a celebration
of inherited power and privilege, and those celebrations have no
place in a modern democracy".
But a poll published last month in the Guardian newspaper
showed 69 percent of respondents thought Britain would be worse
off without the monarchy against 22 percent saying it would be
"(The republicans) know they can't beat it, the combination
of her own sense of duty and hard work and this sort of
undisputed mother figure status," royal biographer Robert Lacey
Many Britons are simply indifferent -- 2 million people are
leaving the country altogether to make the most of the extended
The queen ascended the throne in 1952 on the death of her
father King George VI when she was 25 and Winston Churchill was
British prime minister.
She has since attended thousands of official functions as
the head of state of the United Kingdom and 15 other realms, and
is generally seen as a hard-working and uncontroversial
figurehead who has been able to adapt to the times.
It has not always been easy. In the late 1990s, the monarch
had to guide her family through a slump in popularity over its
handling of the death of the hugely popular Princess Diana in a
1997 Paris car crash.
Yet by her Golden Jubilee in 2002 the monarch had regained
much of the lost ground, and 10 years later the nation looks
ready to throw a party in her name.
For the police, Sunday's flotilla, the largest of its kind
since 1662 and the reign of King Charles II, presents a new
"We're treating it as a unique event, to have that many
dignitaries on that many boats moving along the Thames," London
police's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh said.
"We've had officers searching under the water, on the water,
in the air and on the land," he told Reuters.
Police have not identified a major security threat, but
acknowledge that attention-seeking stunts could disrupt big
set-piece events. The weather also threatens to put a dampener
on proceedings -- some rain and cool temperatures are forecast.
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Ralph Gowling)