How does one fete a queen, particularly one who has held the same position for seven decades? With fireworks, parades and perhaps the odd joust; in short, with all the pomp and pageantry of a Platinum Jubilee, if the lady in question happens to be Queen Elizabeth II, 95, the first British monarch to serve for 70 years.
Elizabeth was just 25 when her father, George VI, died on Feb. 6, 1952, catapulting the petite princess to the head of the United Kingdom’s monarchy. Since her coronation on June 2, 1953, at Westminster Abbey, she and her family have scarcely been out of the headlines — but the public gaze has perhaps never been more sharply focused on the queen than it is in her Platinum Jubilee year.
A variety of events and exhibitions marking this milestone will be ongoing throughout Britain this year, with key celebrations June 2-5 in London and nearby. Here are some top tips if you want to join the party as the U.K. rolls out the red carpet for well-wishers from around the world this year.
A royal long weekend (June 2-5)
June 2: Festivities commence with Trooping the Colour, the Queen’s Birthday Parade. Prancing horses, military marching bands and gilded carriages ferrying members of the royal family will proceed from Buckingham Palace down The Mall to Horse Guard’s Parade (HGP), followed by a Royal Air Force flyover. Catch a glimpse from the roadside or get a better view with a ticket for the ceremony at HGP, a large parade ground (from about $13.50). Later that evening, more than 1,500 beacons will be lit around the U.K. and the Commonwealth, with a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace and fireworks at the Long Walk near Windsor Castle (less than an hour from London’s Paddington and Waterloo train stations).
June 3: While St. Paul’s Cathedral is holding an invitation-only Service of Thanksgiving for the queen’s reign, consider spending the day at one of the monarchy’s ancestral abodes outside London. Hampton Court Palace (about an hour from the Waterloo station), embodies elements of Henry VIII’s Tudor design (a soaring Great Hall and ornate chapel) as well as the Baroque 18th-century grandeur of its later occupants, William III and Mary II. From June 1 to 5, the palace is hosting an added attraction: a “Jubilee Joust” in its 60-plus acres of gardens, where you can cheer for your favorite knight and his mount.
Alternatively, head to Windsor Castle, which has served as a royal residence for more than 1,000 years and is Queen Elizabeth’s preferred weekend getaway. St. George’s Chapel — the Gothic church on the castle grounds where Prince Harry married Meghan Markle — will host a ticketed Jubilee Concert on June 3 featuring music from across the British Isles.
June 4: A horse-racing enthusiast, the queen will attend the Derby at Epsom Downs (about an hour from London’s Victoria Station). Choose from a variety of ticketed enclosures to suit your taste and budget, or watch from free areas on The Hill at the center of the course, where big screens broadcast the action.
In Windsor, the Jubilee Picnic in the Park will feature food stalls, live music and classic cars. Big screens will show the BBC’s Platinum Party at the Palace, a Buckingham Palace concert featuring music megastars. The acts have not yet been announced, but Elton John and Paul McCartney performed at her 2012 Diamond Jubilee, so expect high-wattage entertainment.
June 5: This weekend of royal revelry culminates with a three-act Platinum Pageant that will flow past Buckingham Palace and through neighboring streets like Merry Old England’s version of Mardi Gras. There will be performers staging a fairy tale about the queen’s life, written by War Horse author Sir Michael Morpurgo; theatrical vignettes depicting evocative moments from her reign, including her marriage to the late Prince Philip; plus acrobats, trapeze artists and a puppet dragon bigger than a double-decker bus. Public viewing points, including big screens where royal watchers can gather to celebrate in key outdoor locations, will be announced closer to the date.