Queen Elizabeth thrills fans, waves from Buckingham Palace balcony on Platinum Jubilee's final day

Danica Kirka and Sylvia Hui

LONDON – In a crowning moment for her Platinum Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth II appeared at the balcony of Buckingham Palace, delighting fans who had hoped to catch a glimpse of her during the final day of festivities marking the queen's 70 years on the throne.

The 96-year-old monarch has curtailed her schedule in recent months because of her mobility problems. Prior to Sunday, the queen had only appeared in public twice – both on Thursday – during the four-day holiday weekend celebrations. Officials said she experienced “discomfort” during those events.

The queen, dressed in bright green, waved and smiled after the crowds belted out “God Save the Queen.” Her appearance, which only lasted a few minutes, was followed by a crowd-pleasing performance of ABBA's “Dancing Queen.”

It was an uplifting finale to a massive street pageant celebrating the queen's life and highlighting Britain's diversity. 

Thousands of people who massed outside the palace for the climax of a boisterous, colorful pageant cheered as the monarch appeared on the balcony with her son and heir, Prince Charles, his wife Camilla, and her eldest grandson Prince William and his family.

Queen Elizabeth II made a surprise appearance to close out her Platinum Jubilee festivities on Sunday, waving to crowds as she stood beside Prince Charles on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London.

Afterward, the monarch issued a statement thanking all those who celebrated her Platinum Jubilee.

“When it comes to how to mark seventy years as your queen, there is no guidebook to follow. It really is a first,” she said. “But I have been humbled and deeply touched that so many people have taken to the streets to celebrate my Platinum Jubilee.

“While I may not have attended every event in person, my heart has been with you all; and I remain committed to serving you to the best of my ability, supported by my family."

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 ranging from hip-hop and Bollywood dancers to drag queens and Mardi Gras-style floats. Some 6,000 performers paraded a 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. Celebrities such as Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss were seen riding floats.

The pageant was watched by an estimated 1 billion people around the world, organizers say.

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 to see the celebrities who performed – like Ed Sheeran, who sang his song “Perfect” while a huge video screen showed pictures of the queen and her family – while others just 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.

Thousands of people ran out into The Mall after the parade ended in a bid to see the queen, filling the enormous expanse within minutes.

On Sunday, Charles and Camilla mingled with crowds at The Oval cricket ground in London for a Big Jubilee Lunch.

Millions of people across the country likewise set out long tables, balloons and picnic fare for similar patriotic street parties, gatherings welcomed after the long pandemic lockdowns of the past two years.

Queen Elizabeth adorably has tea with Paddington Bear at Buckingham Palace

Now we know what is in Queen Elizabeth II's handbag.

The long-time mystery was solved Saturday when the British monarch made the second star turn of her career, appearing in a mini-movie to kick off a concert celebrating her 70 years on the throne. The sketch featured the queen having a cream tea with British national treasure Paddington Bear at Buckingham Palace.

After drinking all the tea and destroying the cakes, the duffle coat-wearing bear told Elizabeth how he always had a reserve supply of marmalade sandwiches with him, lifting up his red hat to reveal his favorite treat.

“So do I,” the queen responded before opening her bag and declaring: “I keep mine in here.”

Queen Elizabeth II and Paddington Bear have tea at Buckingham Palace.

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The scene recalled the moment Elizabeth appeared as a Bond girl in a short film for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

“Her majesty is well known for her sense of humor, so it should be no surprise that she decided to take part in tonight’s sketch,” the palace said. “There was an interest in the filming and animation process and the opportunity to invite a famous bear to tea was just too much fun to miss.”

The queen’s performance with an animated bear drew laughter and loud applause from the overflow crowd at the concert outside Buckingham Palace that was the highlight of the third of four days of festivities celebrating her Platinum Jubilee. The 96-year-old monarch did not attend the concert in person due to what the palace describes as “episodic mobility issues.”

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Despite the queen’s absence, spirits were high during an event that culminated with appearances by the monarch’s son and grandson. Prince Charles and his son Prince William paid tribute to the queen in separate speeches that honored the past and looked to the future.

Anne Middleton, 61, who traveled from Cardiff in Wales for the jubilee celebrations, said she loved the Paddington sketch and the queen’s decision to skip the event didn’t dim the festivities.

“Not for me,” she said, decked out from head to toe in the flags of the U.K. and Wales. “She turned up on the first day, and we know she would have been there if she could have been.”

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Charles opened his short speech by addressing the queen as “Your Majesty, Mummy,” then paid tribute to her “lifetime of selfless service.”

The queen’s eldest son and heir recalled the ever-growing list of world leaders Elizabeth has met and the endless stacks of state papers she has reviewed during a reign that has now stretched from the early days of the Cold War to the information age. But he also highlighted his mother’s role as a symbol of stability, unifying the U.K. and the Commonwealth as they negotiated this rapidly changing world.

“You have met us and talked with us. You laugh and cry with us and, most importantly, you have been there for us, for these 70 years,” Charles said as scenes from the queen’s life were projected on the palace walls. “You pledged to serve your whole life – you continue to deliver. That is why we are here. That is what we celebrate tonight.”

William preceded his father with remarks that underscored the queen’s long-time commitment to the environment as he highlighted the need to combat climate change. The presentation began with a clip of the queen’s 1989 Christmas message, in which she called on all nations to work together to protect the earth for “our children and our children’s children.”

That message is still relevant today, William said.

Duchess Kate, Princess Charlotte, Prince George and Prince William watch Paddington Bear and Queen Elizabeth II's skit.

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“It’s my firm hope that my grandmother’s words are as true in 70 years’ time as they are tonight, that as nations we come together in common cause, because then there is always room for hope.”

The queen has not attended any of the jubilee festivities since Thursday, when she waved to supporters from the balcony on Buckingham Palace.

The monarch also decided not to go to the Epsom Derby earlier Saturday, and was represented at the prestigious annual horse race by her daughter, Princess Anne.

The queen, known as a horse lover, has only missed the Epsom Derby a handful of times. On Saturday, five of her former racehorses were paraded, and 40 jockeys who have ridden for the queen formed a guard of honor before the national anthem was played.

“She’s been breeding horses for over 60 years,” Frankie Dettori, one of the jockeys, told the BBC. “She knows all the blood lines and she’s won lots of races and she’s very knowledgeable.”

“I’m sure today she’ll find a TV and she’s going to watch it live, because she loves the Derby so much,” he added.

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It was the second time in as many days that the queen’s mobility issues have robbed crowds of a chance to see her.

On Friday, the queen skipped a special service of Thanksgiving in her honor at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Palace officials said she had experienced “some discomfort” at events the day before, which included waving to huge crowds from Buckingham Palace.

Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, were among nearly 50 members of the royal family who gathered Friday at St. Paul’s Cathedral to honor the absent head of state. It was the couple’s first public appearance in the U.K. since they stepped back from royal duties and moved to California two years ago.

Apart from attending Friday’s service, the couple has so far stayed out of the limelight. Their two children, Archie and Lilibet, who turned 1 on Saturday, haven’t yet made an appearance during this trip. A spokesperson for the couple said they were spending the day “privately” and were not joining some 30 other royals at Saturday’s concert.

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Meanwhile, members of the royal family traveled to Wales and Northern Ireland as part of celebrations across the U.K.

William and his wife Kate brought two of their three children – 8-year-old Prince George and 7-year-old Princess Charlotte – to Cardiff Castle in Wales before a separate concert in the castle grounds in honor of the queen.

The queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, visited a 1950s-themed seaside funfair in Belfast. Edward tried his hand at pulling a pint of Guinness at a diner, while Sophie took in a ’50s and ’60s dance demonstration.