Anchors Away!: Diamond Jubilee Flotilla Sets Sail

The Thames barrier was lowered to slow the flow of the river and make it easier for the boats to maintain a steady 4 knots/hour pace.

While this week’s Diamond Jubilee is a time for looking back and celebrating the Queen’s accomplishments, the Queen has also made the next generations of royals a key part of her celebrations. As such, the Diamond Jubilee fulfills a dual role: looking back to remember Queen’s coronation 60 years ago while also looking forward to the succession of the future Kings, Charles and William.

Standing at the forefront of her gilded ship, the Spirit of Chartwell, the Queen kept the senior members of the royal family close as the ship made its way down the River Thames, waving to the delighted crowds who strained to catch a glimpse of the royal barge in the cold drizzle.

The senior members of the royal family (from left to right) Prince Charles, Prince Philip, the Queen, the Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Cambridge, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry on board the Spirit of Chartwell.

With 670 boats participating, today’s flotilla was the largest river show since 1662, when King Charles II honored his new bride Catherine of Braganza in the company of 10,000 vessels, according to David Hughes of the Telegraph. “The first part of the parade would have seemed remarkably familiar to Pepys – the rowers and the paddlers – all led by the magnificent Gloriana, built for the occasion and powered by 20 oarsmen. It looks both stunning and timeless. And the entire capital seems to have flocked down to the river to watch. There’s not a free inch of riverside space to be had. What better way for a maritime nation to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of a remarkable woman?”

A historic theme encompassed the festivities with a contingent of Dunkirk “little ships” and tall ships such as the Southampton-based Tenacious, following behind the leader of the flotilla, the Gloriana. More than 20 ships from the Royal Naval Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) helped with safety during the parade as well as celebrating the 60,000 lives saved by the RNLI during the Queen’s reign.

The gloomy skies and cold drizzle did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowds gathered along the Thames from Putney to Tower Bridge. Telegraph reporter David Millward spoke to Margaretta Soulsby, who remembered George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935:

“Margaretta Soulsby, 86, slept overnight in the lost children’s tent a short distance from Tower Bridge to make sure she had a good view of the proceedings. A true veteran of Royal occasions, she recalled attending the Silver Jubilee of George V in 1935 and has not missed a major event since.

“’My family had ran a tour operator’s business from Parliament Street and I had a fabulous view of the Coronation of George VI.’ Miss Soulsby, who now lives in West Dorset, estimates she has attended three jubilees, two Coronations, six weddings and four funerals.”

It is estimated that more than 20,000 people participated on the ships and over 1 million people lined the river banks to watch today’s parade.

Diamond Jubilee festivities will continue on Monday with a concert at Buckingham Palace that includes British performers Robbie Williams, Dame Shirley Bassey, Elton John and Tom Jones. A highlight of the concert will be the British group Madness performing their hit “Our House” on the roof of the palace. After the concert, 4,000 diamond jubilee beacons will be lit throughout the Commonwealth.

The climax of the celebrations will be a religious service on Tuesday at St. Paul’s Cathedral, followed by a carriage procession through London and the royal family appearing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

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