LONDON (Reuters) - Four days of nationwide celebrations during which millions of people have turned out to mark Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne conclude on Tuesday with a church service and carriage procession through central London.
The 86-year-old British monarch will cut a lonely figure as the Diamond Jubilee draws to a close, however, after her husband of 64 years, Prince Philip, was taken to hospital on Monday with a bladder infection.
The 90-year-old will be kept under observation for a few days in a move the palace said was “precautionary”, but it takes some of the gloss of what is widely seen as a triumphant jubilee that has cemented the queen’s popularity in Britain.
A million people gathered for a spectacular 1,000-vessel pageant on the River Thames on Sunday and hundreds of thousands more packed the wide, red road leading to Buckingham Palace on Monday for a concert featuring Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.
Millions more attended street parties up and down the country despite generally inclement weather.
In a tribute to his mother delivered from the concert stage late on Monday, heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles sought to sum up public affection for a monarch who is a symbol of stability at a time of economic gloom and political disillusionment.
“As a nation this is our opportunity to thank you and my father for always being there for us, for inspiring us with your selfless duty and service and for making us proud to be British, proud at a time when I know how many of our fellow countrymen are suffering such hardship and difficulties.”
His speech was followed by the national anthem and a spectacular fireworks display in front of the sumptuous 775-room palace illuminated with a giant Union Jack flag.
Tuesday’s events will be more typical of the formal displays of pomp and glittering ceremony for which British royalty is known across the globe.
They begin with the queen, head of state of 16 countries, attending a thanksgiving service in her honor at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral along with senior members of the royal family.
The spiritual leader of the Anglican church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will deliver the sermon while Prime Minister David Cameron will give a reading to pay tribute to the queen who came to the throne aged 25 in 1952.
Afterwards the royals will attend receptions at two of the City of London’s grandest buildings, Mansion House and the Guildhall, before a diamond jubilee lunch at Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament.
The queen will then lead a carriage procession back to Buckingham Palace in a 1902 State Landau as military bands play and a 60-gun salute is fired.
Charles, his two sons Prince Harry and Prince William with his wife Kate will follow behind in royal carriages.
The jubilee celebrations end with the royal family making an appearance on the balcony of the palace, with a fly-past by modern and former Royal Air Force aircraft.
So far, the long weekend dedicated to the diamond jubilee has been a success story for the monarchy, their media team and Elizabeth personally.
Polls suggest the crown and the queen herself are more popular than they have been for decades, with one suggesting the hereditary monarch was considered far less out of touch with her people than Cameron and his ministers.
Meanwhile the younger generation of royals, especially William, Harry and Kate, have become the darlings of the British press, once notoriously hostile to the monarchy as it threatened to implode in the 1990s following marital infidelities and the death of Charles’s hugely popular first wife, Princess Diana.
Republicans have been vocal in their opposition during the jubilee but have drawn few obvious signs of public backing, although they hope that apathy to the royals felt by some could turn to hostility when the queen is gone and the less popular Charles becomes king.
If nothing else, commentators said the royals had once again provided Britons, suffering through deep public spending cuts and rising unemployment, with an excuse for a party.
“The world has been reminded that, whatever the weather, nobody does pageantry quite like Britain,” said an editorial in the Daily Mail newspaper, which prides itself on being the voice of middle-class Britain.
“Long may it continue. And long may the Queen continue to reign.”
Editing by Christopher Wilson