Without the tired queen, but with Harry and Meghan: The British royal family gathered on Friday for a church service celebrating 70 years of Elizabeth II’s historic reign, on the second day of her platinum jubilee.
Buckingham Palace had announced on Thursday night the “reluctant” absence of the 96-year-old monarch, still head of the Church and very religious, due to a certain “discomfort”. As more and more, the queen, who has difficulty walking, is represented by her heir Carlos de Ella.
He had appeared twice on the palace balcony on Thursday and had taken part in the evening at Windsor Castle in a short ceremony to switch on the lights.
The religious ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London marks the first royal appearance in the UK for Prince Harry and Meghan since they left for California two years ago.
The Duke of Sussex, with military medals dangling from his jacket, and the Duchess, in an off-white dress, arrived shortly after 11 am (1000 GMT) to applause – and some jeers – on the cathedral steps.
Before them, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had arrived, booed by the crowd, holding hands with his wife Carrie, and his predecessors Tony Blair and David Cameron.
A heavy ceremony surrounds this religious ceremony, with guards in traditional uniforms in rows on the esplanade and on the steps, and the bells ringing continuously. The event, attended by some 2,000 people, is one of the highlights of four days of festivities that mark the longevity record of the hugely popular Queen Elizabeth, who ascended the throne at the age of 25 on February 6, 1952.
“It’s a very moving moment,” admits Karen Fletcher, 55, who arrived early in the morning in front of Saint Paul. “We will never see anything like this again,” she adds, saying to herself “sad” that the queen is not coming, as she understands that she “must take care of her”.
“It’s historic,” adds Roger Nagy, 51, who came especially from the United States. He finds the monarchy “great”, and as for Harry and Meghan, “they should stay behind, they can do what they want with their lives, but they shouldn’t say anything, this is all for the Queen, not for them.”
Le retour des «Sussex», venus des États-Unis avec leurs deux jeunes enfants pour les célébrations, a fait couler beaucoup d’encre hostile, reflet d’une grande unpopularité au Royaume-Uni depuis leur départ et leurs confessions fracassantes à la télévision American.
After the family tensions of the last two years, all gestures and looks before, during, and after the service will be examined with a magnifying glass. For two years, relations between Harry, 37, and William, 39, second in line to the throne, have been almost non-existent. They are hardly better off with his father, Prince Charles, heir to the crown.
According to the couple’s biographer, Omid Scobie, they had lunch with family members in Windsor on Thursday, allowing the Queen to meet her daughter Lilibet, who celebrates her first birthday on Saturday, for the first time.
The queen’s second son, Andrew, 62, was absent on Friday after suffering from COVID-19, according to Buckingham Palace. He no longer has an official role, since the sexual assault charges related to the Epstein case in the United States, ended up paying several million dollars.
Neither he nor Harry and Meghan had been invited to the balcony of Buckingham Palace on Thursday, from where tens of thousands of Londoners cheered the Queen. Meghan and Harry were seen from afar watching the Salute to the Colors military parade from another building.
The celebrations will continue on Saturday with a huge evening concert outside Buckingham Palace, before thousands of luncheons and neighborhood parties on Sunday, and a huge parade through the streets of London at night, with around 10,000 participants.
Taking advantage of this patriotic atmosphere, and unlike a 96-year-old monarch preparing for the future, the Conservative government launched a consultation on Friday to restore, after Brexit, the use of the imperial measurement system, with the return of pounds instead of kilos in stores, and allow pint sizes to be certified with a crown logo instead of the European CE.
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