A Party Fit for a Queen
The United Kingdom celebrates Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, or 60 years on the throne.
TOP PHOTO: Queen Elizabeth II has reigned since 1952. (John Stillwell / PA Photos / Landov)
BOTTOM PHOTO: The Queen waved to onlookers from the Royal Barge on the River Thames. (US PRESSWIRE)
MAP: The United Kingdom is now governed by a Prime Minister and Parliament. (Jim McMahon)
For the past few days, citizens of the United Kingdom have been throwing a royal party. Ten thousand people picnicked in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. Fireworks exploded over the London sky. And communities throughout the U.K. have lit more than 4,000 beacons, or signal lights.
What’s all the fuss about? The people are celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, or 60th year on the throne. A jubilee is a celebration that marks a special anniversary, such as a 25th anniversary (silver jubilee) or 50th anniversary (golden jubilee).
The Queen, who is 86 years old, became the monarch, or ruler, of the U.K. in 1952. Her Diamond Jubilee is only the second ever celebrated in the 1,000-year history of British royalty. Queen Elizabeth’s great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, celebrated the first Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
A KINGDOM UNITES
British officials declared a four-day holiday in honor of the event. It began Saturday, June 2, and ends today, June 5. The Royal Family held a series of special events over the holiday weekend. They included horse races, concerts, and flybys of Royal Air Force planes.
On Sunday, a pageant of 1,000 boats rowed on the River Thames in celebration. The Queen herself waved at an estimated 1 million spectators from a royal barge.
Afterward, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir performed a medley, or musical mix, of patriotic English songs. They ended with the chorus of the U.K.’s national anthem, “God Save the Queen. ”
A BRITISH SYMBOL
The English monarchy was once the near-absolute authority in England. During the 1800s, however, the British government slowly became more democratic. These days, the monarchy exists mostly as a symbol of British culture.
Parliament, which consists of an elected House of Commons and an appointed House of Lords, makes the country’s laws. The Prime Minister leads the British government and serves in a role similar to the U.S. President.
Even though the queen’s role is largely symbolic, many British people remain passionate in their devotion to the royal family. Queen Elizabeth said she was humbled by the response to her Diamond Jubilee. “It has touched me deeply to see so many thousands of families, neighbors and friends celebrating together in such a happy atmosphere,” she said in a speech on British television.