Britain celebrates the second day of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee on Friday, with the highlight a service of thanksgiving attended by senior royals and politicians that the 96-year-old monarch herself will miss due to ongoing mobility issues.
The four days of events kicked off Thursday, when a happy-looking Elizabeth waved to crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace after a military parade and Royal Air Force flyover, and later led the lighting of the Principal Platinum Jubilee Beacon at her Windsor Castle home.
The celebrations continue with a National Service of Thanksgiving at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral to pay tribute to the sovereign’s 70 years on the throne.
But the queen, who has been forced to cancel a series of engagements recently because of “episodic mobility problems,” will be absent, pulling out late Thursday and slightly taking the sheen off the day’s party atmosphere.
“The queen greatly enjoyed today’s birthday parade and flypast but did experience some discomfort,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.
Officials said the journey from Windsor Castle, where she spends most of her time, to London and the activity involved for the service were too much and that a regrettable but sensible decision had been taken.
A palace source said it had always been the queen’s hope that she would attend rather than a firm commitment.
She will not be the only absentee. Her second son, Prince Andrew, 62, has tested positive for COVID-19 and will also miss the service, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said Thursday.
That will potentially spare the royals some awkwardness, with Andrew’s reputation shattered after he settled a U.S. lawsuit in February in which he had been accused of sexually abusing a woman when she was underage, claims he denied.
Grandson Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, who have made almost no public appearances in Britain since stepping down from royal duties two years ago, are expected to attend.
The couple moved to the United States to lead a more independent life and have since delivered some stinging attacks on Buckingham Palace and the royal family.
The service will include Bible readings, prayers and hymns to express gratitude for Elizabeth’s reign. Political figures from Britain and across the world will be in attendance, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson will give a reading.
David Ison, the Dean of St. Paul’s, will say, “We come together in this cathedral church today to offer to God our thanks and praise for the reign of her majesty the queen and especially for her seventy years of faithful and dedicated service.”
The cathedral’s “Great Paul” bell — the largest in the country and dating to 1882 — will also be rung for the first time at a royal occasion since being restored last year after a mechanism broke in the 1970s.
After the service, a reception will be held at the Guildhall hosted by the Lord Mayor of the City of London.
Thursday marked not only the start of the Jubilee, but also the 69th anniversary of the coronation of Elizabeth, who became queen upon the death of her father, George VI, in February 1952.
She has now been on the throne for longer than any of her predecessors in 1,000 years and is the third-longest reigning monarch ever of a sovereign state. Opinion polls show she remains hugely popular and respected among British people.
“She is a very special person in our lives and always has been,” said 74-year-old retired teacher Sandra Wallace, one of the tens of thousands who thronged central London on Thursday.