‘The goal is to get a wave’: absent Queen fails to deter jubilee service crowds

Donna Wright and her daughters Dolly, 10, and Leila, eight, had originally set their alarms for 4am on Friday morning to try to get the best spot to see the Queen following the Thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Instead, after it was announced on Thursday that the Queen would not be in attendance, they were at least “able to have a little bit of a lie in before coming down”.

Wright said: “My daughters are such huge fans of the royal family, the last royal event we properly celebrated was Meghan and Harry’s wedding so we were really looking forward to seeing the Queen. They’re a bit sad that she wasn’t able to come today.”

But the Queen’s discomfort, which led to her missing the service, did not deter the crowds of flag-waving royal fans.

Wright and her daughters, who travelled from Yorkshire, were among the thousands of people who gathered along the rails of Cheapside hoping to see other members of the royal family pass by after the service.

“The atmosphere here has just been so amazing, everyone has been really friendly. It’s just been so lovely,” Wright said. “We enjoyed yesterday, but I think today will be the highlight. The goal is to try to get a wave from a member of the royal family as they pass by here later.”

Christine, a homemaker in her late 60s, does not leave the Lake District often but travelled to London especially for the jubilee, donning a baker-boy union jack hat she made herself, having been inspired by a design she saw on the Great British Sewing Bee.

“She’s tried to come down to London for all the big royal events and was even here for the silver jubilee in the 70s as well,” her daughter Anna Garnett said. “She was a bit nervous coming here because of the crowds, but we’re here to see the royal family’s cars after the service and I think it will be worth it.”

Garnett, 36, a museum curator, said although her and her mother visited Buckingham Palace on Thursday for trooping the colour, so far they preferred being at Cheapside.

“We went to the palace yesterday and that was very busy and buzzing. But today, actually, is much nicer,” Garnett said. “There’s a lot more space and it’s much less claustrophobic. We live in a quieter place and so this can all be a bit overwhelming, but everyone has been so lovely and it has really been worth it.”

Although there was an abundance of union jack accessories in the vicinity of St Paul’s, including flags, T-shirts and commemorative tote bags, Christine’s hat proved a showstopper.

“We’ve been walking around and my mother keeps getting stopped by passersby asking about her amazing hat,” Garnett said. “My mother has brought down tea towels with the Queen’s face to wave around and has made us all union jack coloured pom-poms, so we’re all set, we’re all kitted out.”

Jackie and Edmund Tickner, from Hertfordshire, spent the diamond jubilee in 2012 on one of the boats as part of the pageant on the Thames. But what stood out to them this year, compared with the last jubilee, was the diversity of the people attending.

“It’s interesting to see the young families as well as the older people, you have the more staunch royalists but also the younger people participating,” said Jackie.

“It’s good to see so many international and foreign visitors here,” her husband added. “Lots of families have come over, and after coronavirus it seems that London has come a bit back to life.”

Although Jackie would not consider herself a “big royalist”, her and her husband attended as she believes this may be one of the last opportunities to celebrate the Queen’s reign. “In a pessimistic sort of way … I do think her time is limited and I do think she has to be realistic, which is why she isn’t here today,” she said. “We’re quite local, being in Hertfordshire, so it’s a nice thing to do to come down and celebrate.”

Amid the cheering crowds there were some boos for the prime minister and his wife as they attended the service. “We’re really not that surprised to hear some boos,” said Andie Litmus, who is in her 20s and works in retail. “After all the stuff about the parties during lockdown, I think booing is probably quite a tame reaction to him being here.”

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