Insure your car, home and valuables with iWYZE
London - The River Thames became a royal highway on Sunday, as Queen Elizabeth II led a motley but majestic flotilla of more than 1 000 vessels in a waterborne pageant to mark her Diamond Jubilee.
In a colourful salute to the island nation's maritime past, an armada of skiffs and sailboats, rowboats and paddle steamers joined a flower-festooned royal barge down an 11-kilometre stretch of London's river.
With a crowd of rain-soaked spectators estimated by organisers at 1.25 million cheering from the riverbanks, the pageant was the largest public event in four days of celebrations of the monarch's 60 years on the throne. On Monday, the queen will join thousands of revellers at an outdoor concert beside Buckingham Palace, headlined by pop royalty including Paul McCartney and Elton John.
With any luck, the weather will improve. Sunday was dismal and damp, with rain scuttling plans for a ceremonial fly past, but that didn't stop Union Jack-waving spectators forming a red, white and blue wave along the pageant route.
The 86-year-old queen wore a silver and white dress and matching coat - embroidered with gold, silver and ivory spots and embellished with Swarovski crystals to evoke the river - for her trip aboard the barge Spirit of Chartwell, decorated for the occasion in regal red, gold and purple velvet.
The queen's grandson, Prince William, and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge - he in his Royal Air Force uniform, she in a red Alexander McQueen dress - and William's brother, Prince Harry, were among senior royals who joined the queen and her husband, Prince Philip.
After a celebratory peal of bells from a special belfry barge, the royal boat sailed downstream, accompanied by tugs, pleasure craft, narrow boats, kayaks, gondolas, dragon boats and even a replica Viking longboat.
The vessels sailed past some of London's great landmarks - including the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and St Paul's Cathedral - before ending their journey near Tower Bridge. Downriver, sailing ships too tall to fit under London's bridges were moored along both banks of the river.
The pageant was a visual spectacle, accompanied by a wall of sound. The river rang with spectators' cheers, ships' horns, church bells and the sound of barge-borne bands playing everything from Handel's Water Music to Bollywood anthems and - as the vessels passed the headquarters of the MI6 spy agency - the James Bond theme.
The pageant ended with a slightly soggy burst of fireworks over Tower Bridge - and news from Guinness World Records that it had broken the record for largest parade of boats.
The four-day Diamond Jubilee celebrations also included thousands of street parties across the country on Sunday. Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, joined hundreds of people for a damp al fresco lunch on Piccadilly, one of London's main shopping streets.
But a lunch organised by Prime Minister David Cameron's staff in Downing St was moved indoors because of the rain.
Not everyone in Britain was celebrating. Hundreds of anti-monarchists held a riverbank protest to oppose the wave of jubilee-mania - though their chants were quickly countered by renditions of “God Save the Queen” from pageant-goers.
“People are sick and tired of being told they must celebrate 60 years of one very privileged, very remote and very uninspiring head of state,” said Graham Smith of the anti-monarchist group Republic.
“The hereditary system is offensive to all the democratic values this country has fought for in the past.”
Jubilee celebrations kicked off Saturday with a royal day at the races, as the queen - a racing fan and horse breeder - watched a horse with the courtly name of Camelot win the Epsom Derby.
The events end on Tuesday with a religious service at St Paul's Cathedral, a carriage procession through the streets of London and the queen's appearance with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the palace balcony. -