Queen Elizabeth to lead giant jubilee flotilla in London

Sat Jun 2, 2012 7:21pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - A flotilla of 1,000 boats will sail London's River Thames on Sunday in a spectacular highlight of four days of nationwide celebrations marking Queen Elizabeth's 60 years on the throne.

Around one million people are expected to line the 7-mile route of the armada accompanying a royal barge carrying the 86-year-old monarch, her husband Prince Philip and leading members of the royal family.

Up and down the country hundreds of thousands more will take to streets adorned in red, white and blue "Union Jack" flags for diamond jubilee parties to honor the second British monarch to mark the milestone.

The only other was her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria in 1897, and while Britain is no longer a superpower whose empire straddles the globe, surveys show the royal family is enjoying its strongest public support in decades.

The Saturday-to-Tuesday holiday comes just over a year after the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, an extravaganza of pomp and pageantry that led news bulletins the world over and boasted a global audience of up to two billion people.

The queen kicked off the jubilee celebrations with a visit on Saturday to the Epsom Derby in southern England, indulging her life-long passion for horse racing, and a special gun salute boomed from the historic Tower of London.

On Monday the monarch hosts a pop concert outside her London residence Buckingham Palace, where Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder will be among the acts. Madness are set to take to the roof of the famous landmark to belt out hit song "Our House".

The long weekend concludes with a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral on Tuesday followed by a carriage procession along the broad Mall leading to Buckingham Palace where the queen will wave to the crowds from the balcony.   Continued...

Britain's Queen Elizabeth shakes hands with a racegoer as she arrives with Prince Philip (2nd L)at the Epsom Derby festival in Epsom, southwest of London June 2, 2012. Queen Elizabeth gets four days of celebrations to mark her 60 years on the British throne under way on Saturday with one of her favourite pastimes, a trip to the horse races, as tributes to the long-serving monarch pour in. REUTERS/Ben Stansall/pool