Wet, cold and windy. Exactly the weather you would expect when Briton’s up and down the country take to the streets to celebrate the 60 year reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
I was fortunate enough to be invited on a guest boat that formed part of the wider Royal flotilla. I was on a smart and modern boat called the Mercuria and was invited because i’m a Trustee if international children’s charity Plan-UK. Last year, Plan worked successfully with Commonwealth governments to highlight the need to end early and forced marriage. Of the 20 countries with the highest prevalence, 12 are in the Commonwealth.
The Leaders’ summit last year closed with a commitment to improve gender equality and the empowerment of women in the Commonwealth. Plan is now working with its partner the Royal Commonwealth Society to make this pledge good. I attended with Plan’s CEO Marie Staunton.
We set sail from Imperial Wharf and caught a glimpse of the moored Gloriana. The crowds at the beginning where easily 6 people deep – I knew this is what we should expect – the UK and Commonwealth has been on Jubilee Celebration duty for several months now. The River pageant was a chance for Britain to do what it does so well and put on a blinking good show for the people who had swarmed the banks of the Thames to celebrate the long reign of their Queen Elizabeth.
The view from the river was simply amazing as we sailed down accompanied by orchestra music. Hundreds of thousands of people mainly dressed in red, white and blue going wild every time we waved to them. People who lived on river boats would cheer their champagne glasses up to us with a Union Jack wrapped around them as protection from the inclement, typical British weather. considering some had been waiting since the night before to watch the 1000-strong flotilla and the weather was in decline throughout the day the atmosphere I experienced was nothing short of electric. People from all walks of life had united to enjoy this historical occasion. As we progressed down the river it became clear how much of an international spectacle this was – flags from all over the Commonwealth where being waved with pride by their citizens. The turnout was truly unbelievable; every nook, cranny, roof, balcony, bridge, river bank and office along the Thames had been occupied by well wishers. Buildings had been draped with flags and messages from around the world. Almost every building had made some effort to get involved. As we progressed under the bridges along the Thames we would hear the occasional rendition of the national anthem whilst people waved frantically at us.
It was so lovely and unusual to see everybody was just happy. Despite all the economic gloom, political scandal and bad weather, for that day people left their worries at home and enjoyed what was simply an amazing display of colourful and varied boats from around the world.
I’m not particularly a monarchist but it was a truly incredible and quite overwhelming day of celebrations. I was honoured to represent Plan and be a part of celebrating the 60 years of public service by Her Majesty the Queen.
Britain deserved to let it’s hair down; and we sure didn’t disappoint.