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Over 1,000 boats took to the Thames for a grand pageant to mark the second day of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
An estimated 1.2 million people thronged the banks to get a glimpse of the 86-year-old monarch and her family as they progressed down the river.
The event began when the Queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived at Chelsea Pier, where they were met by the Prince of Wales in his capacity as Patron of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, along with his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall. After reviewing a Guard of Honor of Chelsea Pensioners, the royal party boarded a tender from HMY Britannia, which took them to the royal barge.
The craft that would carry the royal family was the MV Spirit of Chartwell, a 210-foot hotel barge usually used for luxury cruises along the Thames. The Spirit of Chartwell was heavily modified for the occasion so that she might resemble historic royal barges from the 16th and 17th centuries. The barge’s sides were adorned with red drapes, and the bow was decorated with a crown and the royal cypher. Also on board were extensive horticultural arrangements featuring flowers from the Queen’s gardens. Designed by Rachel de Thame, star of BBC Two’s Gardeners World, they followed a red, gold, and purple color scheme.
The Queen and her husband took in the day’s events from two lavish thrones placed under a canopy on the barge’s top deck. She was accompanied by other senior members of the royal family, including the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry.
Pageant participants were grouped by type, and the groups were separated by ‘herald barges’ carrying bands that played a diverse assortment of music. The bands ranged from the Academy of Ancient Music and the London Philharmonic Orchestra to the Shree Muktajeevan Pipe Band and Dhol Ensemble and Rhythm on the River. Among the pieces played was a new composition based on the original titles of Handel’s “Water Music.”
The boats taking part in the procession were equally diverse, and included rowboats, sailboats, steamboats, as well as an array of historic ships, including Dunkirk little ships and a Maori war canoe. One of the highlights was the Gloriana, an 94-foot vessel built specially for the occasion in the style of 18th century royal barges. Powered by 18 oarsmen, the Gloriana was the brainchild of Lord Sterling, who organized the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002.
“I became enamoured with the idea of building something timeless and got inspiration from Canaletto’s paintings that showed the great barges of the 18th Century and decided to build one,” he told the BBC.
The Gloriana was financed entirely through donations and will be given to the Queen as a present to mark the occasion.