Diamond jubilee’s boats and bunting: expect showers but enjoy the reign Thames river pageant will make history on Sunday, with a flotilla of 1,000 ships recreating royal pageants of old.
Final preparations are under way for the diamond jubilee celebrations, with a dawn rehearsal held on Friday for the ceremonial carriage procession that will be the climax of the bank holiday events.
Members of the armed forces and Household Division were among 2,000 servicemen and women being put through their paces at the 6am rehearsal, watched mainly by sleepy commuters and startled joggers.
The ceremonial carriage procession on Tuesday, followed by a balcony appearance by senior members of the royal family and a flypast at Buckingham Palace, will bring the curtain down on a weekend of street parties and beacon lighting ceremonies across the UK.
Queen to start celebrations at Epsom Derby
The Queen begins her jubilee weekend in one of her favourite places, the royal box at Epsom racecourse, for the Derby on Saturday, where the popular mezzo soprano Katherine Jenkins will sing the national anthem.
The Thames diamond jubilee river pageant will make history on Sunday, with an ambitious flotilla of 1,000 ships recreating royal pageants of old. More than 20,000 people will be on the boats, some of which were beginning to muster in advance on Friday.
Over a million spectators are expected to line the banks and bridges as it sets off at 2.30pm with the last of the vessels expected to sail under Tower Bridge by 5.30pm.
Up to 50 large viewing screens have been placed along the river, bringing central London to a standstill with some roads and bridges closed. Family festivals in Battersea Park and Hyde Park are also expected to attract large crowds.
Sunday will also see thousands of street parties as the jubilee coincides with the Big Lunch. More than 9,500 applications for road closures have been approved across the UK – almost twice as many as for last year’s royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Buckingham Palace becomes the centre of attention on Monday, with the BBC jubilee concert kicking off at 7.30pm. More than 10,000 ticket holders will see artists including Robbie Williams, Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Cliff Richard, Stevie Wonder, JLS, Jessie J and Elton John perform. One highlights will be the group Madness, performing their hit Our House on the roof of Buckingham Palace.
However, the unseasonably cold weather over the bank holiday may dampen the celebrations. On Sunday, persistent rain is forecast for the London river pageant, with a maximum temperature of 12C, with rain over quite large parts of England and Wales affecting street parties.
Rain is expected to clear throughout Monday, though the possibility of showers for the outdoor concert remains.
Those without tickets to the jubilee concert can try partying in Hyde Park, the Mall and St James’s Park where giant screens will relay the action live. The concert, which also features Kylie Minogue, Cheryl Cole and Sir Paul McCartney, is broadcast live on BBC1 and Radio 2.
Soul singer Wonder said: “It’s an honour to celebrate the Queen. It’s an honour to celebrate Great Britain. The time is overdue that I meet Her Majesty.”
More than 4,000 beacons will be lit across the UK and across the globe on Monday night, culminating in the Queen lighting the national beacon at 10.30pm in the Mall.
By Tuesday the temperature in London will creep up to 17C, and with rain clearing there is hope the Queen can travel in her open-topped landau.
Tuesday sees a more traditional celebration, with the Queen attending a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, followed by a reception at the Guidhall, and Jubilee lunch at Westminster Hall for 700 given for the Queen by the Livery.
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will depart in the 1902 state landau carriage – weather permitting – along a processional route back to Buckingham Palace. With an emphasis very much on succession, the only other members of the royal family to be in the carriage procession are the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
After the mandatory balcony appearance, and the flypast, the Queen can finally put her feet up … until Wednesday, when she will be a guest at a luncheon hosted by the Commonwealth secretary general at Marlborough House.