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Bunting for Britain and The Queen

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Image: Telegraph / Getty

From the Telegraph

The day had begun with six million people around the country attending 10,000 street parties from Devon to Dumfriesshire, almost all of which had gone ahead despite the weather.

. . .No one would have blamed the Queen if she had turned out in oilskins.

An estimated 1.2 million people, a bigger turnout than for last year’s royal wedding, lined 14 miles of riverbank, turning it into an unbroken chain of red, white and blue.

To repay them for their loyalty, the Queen smiled on through the cold and wet, resisting the joint temptations of an indoor berth and a hot cup of tea to wave non-stop from the windswept deck of the royal barge from start to finish of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

. . .The scale of the event’s ambition was signalled by the first vessel in the flotilla: a 180ft floating belfry weighing 12 tons whose eight specially cast bells pealed non-stop for the hour and a half it took to reach Tower Bridge, echoed by returning peals from every church and cathedral it passed.

Immediately behind was the newest boat in the Pageant; the gilded and magnificent royal rowbarge, Gloriana, which gave spectators a flavour of a previous Elizabethan age as its 18 oarsmen, led by the multiple Olympic gold medal winner Sir Steve Redgrave, powered the 94ft vessel downstream.

. . .eight miles downstream, the organisers had deployed their secret weapon.

At 9.30 in the morning they had closed the Thames Flood Barrier for the entire day to slow the river from its usual 5mph current to just a tenth of that speed and calm the tidal surge that normally makes the Thames rise by 21ft every six hours.

With the river tamed and “locked” at high tide to make the boats easier to see, the Queen could cruise calmly at the head of the Royal Squadron, following a shrill whistle from the Princess Elizabeth steam locomotive on Battersea Rail Bridge above.

Then came the Dunkirk “Little Ships”, the lifeboats and the fireboats, representing service and duty, the twin touchstones of the Queen’s 60-year reign.

Nothing summed up the day better than the sight of the London Philharmonic’s choir, pausing opposite the Queen, belting out Land of Hope and Glory as rain plastered their hair to their faces.

Ebullient Boris Johnson wrote, They bunted for Britain and The Queen.

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