The horses have galloped, the cannons have burst and the planes have flown — Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee is officially underway.
The celebration marks the queen’s 70th year on the British throne, an unprecedented feat for the monarchy that calls for elaborate plans, which include a four-day holiday weekend full of parties, pageants and concerts.
Members of the royal family including Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla, Prince William and Duchess Kate, and their three young Cambridge royals: George, Charlotte and Louis celebrated all Thursday with their family matriarch as the military put on the Trooping of the Color showcase. The parade and pomp marked the start of what’s expected to be a host of events to honor the long-reigning queen.
The 96-year-old monarch celebrated the official anniversary of her time on the throne, or her Ascension Day on Feb. 6, the same day in 1952 she began carrying the title after the death of her father, King George VI. She was formally crowned on June 2, 1953.
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As fans and royal watchers worldwide tune into jubilee festivities this weekend, we are answering some common questions surrounding the momentous occasion.
What is the Platinum Jubilee?
Jubilees are not uncommon in British royal history. Queen Elizabeth II has celebrated several but is the first monarch to celebrate a platinum year of 70. In 2012, the queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, marking 60 years on the throne.
Throughout her 70th year of rule several events have taken place before this weekend’s long-awaited festivities.
In May, the jubilee kicked off with a 90-minute arena theater show which included more than 500 horses (one of the queen’s favorite animals) and 1,000 performers showed off a look through history of the British Monarchy, beginning with Elizabeth I.
Kicking it off:Queen Elizabeth II poses for Platinum Jubilee picture to mark start of national celebration
Will Harry and Meghan attend the Platinum Jubilee celebrations?
Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan traveled to the UK for the festivities, but aren’t visibly taking part in everything.
Those who watched the Trooping of the Color might have noticed the royal family members were missing from the balcony photo.
Harry and Meghan, as well as the Queen’s second son Prince Andrew, weren’t invited to the balcony for the parade because it was limited to just the “working” royal family. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who stepped back from their royal roles and moved to California two years ago, instead watched from the nearby Major General’s Office. Prince Andrew stepped away from public duties amid controversy over his links with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Harry and Meghan, however, were present for the service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Friday. They were joined by Prince Charles, Duchess Camilla, Prince William and Duchess Kate. Queen Elizabeth did not attend the service after experiencing “discomfort” after Thursday’s activities.
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Prince Andrew was expected to attend the church service but did not after testing positive for COVID-19.
While the celebratory figure of the long weekend is the queen, Saturday will also mark the first birthday of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s youngest child, Lilibet “Lili” Diana Mountbatten-Windsor.
Why didn’t the queen wait for Friday’s service?
Though Queen Elizabeth II had a great time at Thursday’s Trooping the Color parade, she sat out of Friday’s service of thanksgiving due to “discomfort” she’s experiencing, Buckingham Palace said Thursday evening.
The change disappointed millions, not to mention the queen herself as the palace announced the news.
“Taking into account the journey and activity required to participate in tomorrow’s National Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Her Majesty with great reluctance has concluded that she will not attend,” the statement said.
More:Queen Elizabeth II to miss St. Paul’s service Friday due to ‘discomfort’
Given the religious and family-oriented aspects of the service, it was considered one of her must-do events during the four-day jubilee holiday this weekend.
The queen, however, did appear on the balcony to take the salute of her troops on Thursday, looking happy and well and even chatted to one of her great-grandchildren.
Who was on the balcony with the queen?
Queen Elizabeth appeared – twice – for the first time in years on the balcony of Buckingham Palace Thursday.
She appeared first with one of her royal cousins, the Duke of Kent, to take the salute of her troops, and then with her extended family of “working royals.”
For the second appearance on the balcony, the family group flanking the queen included Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla; Prince William and Duchess Kate and their three children; Princess Anne and her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence; and the queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, his wife Countess Sophie and their two teenage children, James, Viscount Severn, and Lady Louise Windsor.
Also on the balcony were the queen’s cousins, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra.
Who is the Duke of Kent?
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, 86, is the queen’s cousin (both are descendants of King George V). He stood very tall in his military uniform next to the diminutive queen during his first balcony appearance.
Since the death of her husband, Prince Philip, last year, the duke is the senior male royal of the queen’s generation and has occasionally stood in for her at official events.
Is the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee streaming live, on TV?
If booking a flight to London isn’t on your spring itinerary, there are ways to watch the anniversary events from the comfort of your home.
In the US, Americans can watch the BBC’s official coverage of the jubilee on ABC, which announced Tuesday it has partnered with the UK’s national broadcaster to provide live reports of events daily on all its platforms but especially on royals-loving morning programs.
70 years on the throne:Queen Elizabeth II appears twice on palace balcony as Platinum Jubilee party starts
The network will also air Saturday’s “Party at the Palace” special which will showcase a concert with big names like Elton John, Diana Ross and more, available to stream the next day on Hulu.
The other major news networks also are planning extensive coverage and content, such as CBS’ “Her Majesty the Queen: A CBS Special with Gayle King,” airing on Friday. PBS and cable channels, such as The Smithsonian Channel, will also be airing hours of content.
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What other events will be part of the Jubilee?
Now that the Trooping of the Color is out of the way, the party is on.
On Thursday more than 1,500 towns, villages and cities throughout the UK and its territories lit a beacon to mark the Jubilee. Beacons were also stationed in capital cities, led by a principal beacon, which was lit in a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
On Friday, the royal family attended the religious service at St. Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate the Queen’s reign.
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For Saturday, the UK government says there will be a concert of the “world’s biggest entertainment stars” for the “Platinum Party at the Palace.” The lineup includes Elton John, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Alicia Keys, Diana Ross, Rod Stewart, Duran Duran, Andrew Lloyd Weber and Queen featuring Adam Lambert, among other major music stars.
Sunday will include lunches, dubbed “Big Jubilee Lunches,” and a pageant called “The River of Hope” which will see 200 silk flags, designed by primary and secondary school students, which will fly along The Mall — the street which connects Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square.
What Barack Obama and Paul McCartney said to celebrate
A celebration is not complete without celebrity shoutouts, and a few have already rolled in for Queen Elizabeth II.
Former President Barack Obama feels the monarch a video message that was broadcast on BBCreflecting on the time he and his wife Michelle Obama visited Buckingham Palace during his presidency.
“I walked away actually thinking she reminded me a little bit of my grandmother,” Obama said. “Getting to know her was one of the great privileges of my years in office. And I learned so much from seeing the example she set for all of us who have the privilege to serve.
“Your life has been a gift, not just to the United Kingdom but to the world,” he added.
Paul McCartney also sent a celebratory message to the queen who knighted the musician in 1997. He shared a throwback photo Thursday on Instagram of them together in 1996 at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.
“70 beautiful years of Queen Elizabeth the second. Congrats ma’ am! And thanks,” he wrote.
Contributor: Maria Puente