Thames Jubilee Pageant
Sunday 3rd June 2012
Planning, perseverance, determination, weather, tides and luck all came to my assistance on Sunday 3rd June. As an ardent Royalist, I desperately wanted to be beside the River Thames in London to see history being made, with an incredible 1,000 vessels taking part in the Jubilee Pageant in honour of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The previous week I was on a cruising holiday with the Ocean Liner Society on board HORIZON in the western Mediterranean and due back into Marseilles early on the 3rd June. The weather and good luck ensured we arrived before schedule, and one of my travelling companions had asked that three of us be allowed off the ship immediately after arrival and immigration clearance, and so we were soon stepping ashore and being waved off by our other companions on deck. A taxi took us to the airport, luggage was checked in and handed over and two of us were soon flying off to London Gatwick Airport, bound for the Jubilee Pageant and unable to believe our good fortune.
We took the train to London, left luggage at a rail terminus, and set off into the gloom and damp of a London truly en fête for the Diamond Jubilee. It was so exciting to be there, amongst what we later found out was 1.4 million people standing along the sides of the River Thames and the Pageant route. Lambeth Bridge was closed so we stood on the South Bank with as good a view as we could manage. This was one of the times when I did regret being of a shorter stature than some. However, people moved or went for food or even went to queue for an hour to use a Portaloo, so eventually I could take photographs.
Down river the Thames Barrier had been closed so the water was relatively smooth for the tiny vessels taking part, which had been assembling at noon. The boats were in nine groups:
1. Man-powered boats
2. Commonwealth Flags
3. Royal Squadron
4. Dunkirk Little Ships
5. Historic Boats. I was particularly interested in seeing this group as one of my retired maritime friends was crewing on JOLLY BRIT. Now privately owned, she was the Jolly boat on Her Majesty’s Yacht BRITANNIA, taking the Royal Family ashore when needed.
6. Working Boats
7. Leisure Boats
8. Narrow Boats
9. Passenger Boats.
In addition to these, there were also several Music Boats interspersed in the Pageant, carrying an orchestra or band playing pieces specially composed for the Jubilee. I also found out that underneath Tower Bridge there were 47 tall ships, yachts, Thames barges and historic craft forming the Avenue of Sail; this included ARTEMIS, previously seen recently in Hamburg.
The weather was incredibly chilly for June, the clouds were low and threatened rain any moment, but the excitement was mounting and soon we could hear cheers and bells as the Pageant came near. That was the start of several absolutely glorious hours of pageantry which probably hadn’t been seen on the River Thames in London since 1747. We were so thrilled to be part of it – an island race rejoicing in our heritage and so happy to be showing our affection and respect for Queen Elizabeth II on her Diamond Jubilee.
Beside Lambeth Bridge, which was closed
The crowds around us
One of the big screens on the other end of Lambeth Bridge
My view to the right
Lambeth Palace behind me
Royal Jubilee Bells - a floating Belfry of 8 new bells, including 'Elizabeth' weighing in at nearly half a ton - and all ringing!
Tug Steven B pushing the Royal Jubilee Bells
The Gloriana, which led the oar-powered section of the Flotilla
Some of the rowers
Edwardian, one of the Music vessels
Trinity 500s, each carrying a Commonwealth flag
Spirit of Chartwell, with Her Majesty The Queen, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, HRH the Prince of Wales, HRH the Duchess of Cornwall, HRH the Duke and HRH the Duchess of Cambridge and HRH Prince Henry
The Queen waving to me
Havengore, with the Duke of York, Princesses Beatrix and Eugenie and other members of the Royal Family
Havengore heading towards the Houses of Parliament
Eastbourne's new Lifeboat 'Diamond Jubilee'
Oooh, that's not Prince Philip
Some of the Dunkirk boats
Another of the Music boats
Historic Boats - Jolly Brit
Historic boats - Jolly Brit, previously from HMY Britannia
Historic boats - Jolly Brit, and 441 - one of the last surviving WWII rescue craft
The Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers
After the Pageant we walked back towards an Underground station, passing one hotel which had a band and bar on the pavement. The rain was pouring down, everyone we passed was smiling and the band played, oh so appropriately, 'Singing in the Rain'.