LONDON (AP) — A boisterous, colorful street pageant celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s life and highlighting Britain’s diversity paraded through central London on Sunday, the final day of a holiday weekend honoring the monarch’s 70 years on the throne. Thousands of people turned out on the streets of London, many speaking with excitement and pride about their queen and country.
Royal fans hoping to see another glimpse of the 96-year-old queen at Buckingham Palace, where the parade ends, may get their wish. The royal flag was raised over the palace, suggesting the monarch may greet the crowds with a second balcony appearance.
Known as the Royal Standard, the flag is only flown over one of the palaces when the queen is in residence.
The queen only appeared in public on Thursday during the four-day Platinum Jubilee extravaganza, with officials saying she experienced “discomfort” during the events. Elizabeth has curtailed her schedule in recent months due to problems moving around.
Sunday’s pageant began with a spectacular military parade featuring 200 horses marching down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. They flanked the gold state coach, a gilded carriage that transported the queen to her coronation 69 years ago. A virtual version of her, drawn from archival video from her 1953 coronation, was shown at the coach’s windows.
After the pomp and pageantry came a melange of acts celebrating the diversity of modern Britain and the Commonwealth, from hip hop and Bollywood dancers to drag queens and Mardi Gras style floats. Some 6,000 performers paraded along a three-kilometer (nearly two-mile) route lined with a sea of Union flags, telling the story of the queen’s life with dance, vintage cars, vibrant costumes, carnival music and giant puppets.
Some of Britain’s best-loved cultural exports were here, from the Daleks in “Doctor Who” to James Bond’s Aston Martins. Celebrities including singer Cliff Richard danced and sang from open-top double decker buses meant to represent the sights and sounds of each decade from the 1950s.
“It’s a massive honor to be part of this, we’ve got the best queen in the world, don’t we? Best country in the world,” said Warren Jobson, a biker who took part in the parade.
Organizers say the pageant is expected to be watched by 1 billion people around the world. As a finale, celebrities including singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran will belt out “God Save The Queen” outside Buckingham Palace — where many hope the monarch and her family will make another balcony appearance to cap the weekend of celebrations.
The keenest royal fans braved the wet, chilly weather and camped out on the Mall overnight to secure the best view of the pageant. Some came for the celebrities who will be performing, while others wanted to be part of a historical moment.
“It’s part of history, it’s never going to happen again. It’s something special, so if you are going to do it you’ve got to go big or go home,” said Shaun Wallen, 50.
The queen did not join her family in the royal box watching the pageant. Nor did Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, who made their first family trip to the U.K. since they stepped away from royal duties and moved to the U.S. in 2020. The couple has largely stayed out of the limelight during the Platinum Jubilee events.
The monarch delighted the country when she appeared in a surprise comedy video that opened a concert Saturday staged in front of Buckingham Palace. In the video, the monarch had tea with a computer-animated Paddington Bear — and revealed that, just like the furry character, she was partial to marmalade sandwiches and liked to keep them in her handbag.
Diana Ross and the rock band Queen headlined the star-studded tribute concert Saturday night, which also featured Rod Stewart, Duran Duran, Alicia Keys and Andrea Bocelli.
Prince Charles, the queen’s eldest son and heir to the throne, highlighted his mother’s role as a symbol of unity and stability through the decades.
Addressing the queen as “Your Majesty, mummy,” Charles said: “You laugh and cry with us and, most importantly, you have been there for us for these 70 years.”
On Sunday, Charles and his wife, Camilla, mingled with crowds at The Oval cricket ground in London for a “Big Jubilee Lunch.” Millions across the country likewise set out long tables, balloons and picnic fare for similar patriotic street parties and barbeques.