LONDON, June 3 (Reuters) – Britain celebrates the second day of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee on Friday, with the highlight a service of thanksgiving attended by senior royals and politicians that the 96-year-old monarch herself will miss due to ongoing mobility issues.
The four days of events kicked off on Thursday, when a beaming Elizabeth waved to crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace after a military parade and Royal Air Force flypast, and later led the lighting of the Principal Platinum Jubilee Beacon at her Windsor Castle home.
The celebrations continued with a National Service of Thanksgiving at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral to pay tribute to the sovereign’s 70 years on the throne.
But the queen, who has been forced to cancel a series of engagements recently because of “episodic mobility problems”, was absent, reluctantly pulling out late on Thursday and slightly taking the sheen off the day’s party atmosphere.
“The queen greatly enjoyed today’s Birthday Parade and Flypast but did experience some discomfort,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.
Officials said the journey to London from Windsor Castle, where she spends most of her time these days, and the activity involved for the service was too much, and a regrettable but sensible decision had been taken.
A palace source said it had always been the queen’s hope that she would attend rather than a firm commitment. Her son and heir Prince Charles, 73, represented Elizabeth, who is a devout Christian and also the titular head of the Church of England, at the service.
“We are all disappointed, she has said how disappointed she is but we want her to be well,” Britain’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, told BBC TV outside St Paul’s.
“I think she’s been magnificent so far over this week, and she should look after herself, she should pace herself, and it’s fine: please God, she should live many, many more years in good health.”
Cheers and some jeers
Also absent from the service was her second son, Prince Andrew, 62, who has tested positive for COVID-19, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said on Thursday.
That potentially spared the royals some awkwardness, with Andrew’s reputation shattered after he settled a U.S. lawsuit in February in which he had been accused of sexually abusing a woman when she was underage, claims he denied.
However, the queen’s grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who have made almost no public appearances in Britain since stepping down from royal duties two years ago, attended Friday’s service.
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan were greeted with cheers and some jeers as they joined the royal family at a thanksgiving service on Friday for Queen Elizabeth, their first public appearance together in Britain since quitting royal duties
There were loud cheers and some boos as they arrived at the cathedral on Friday, while the eyes of the congregation were fixed on them as they walked to their seats.
The couple, who had said they were “excited and honoured” to attend the Platinum Jubilee events, made headlines with a bombshell Oprah Winfrey interview in March last year when Meghan, who is biracial, accused an unnamed royal of racism and Harry said his family had cut them off financially.
Their relationship with the other royals has been frosty since then, most notably with Harry’s elder brother Prince William. Harry’s criticisms of his family have continued since the Oprah interview and there was no obvious interaction between the brothers at Friday’s service.
The couple moved to the United States to lead a more independent life, and have since delivered some stinging attacks on Buckingham Palace and the royal family.
The service will include Bible readings, prayers, and hymns to express gratitude for Elizabeth’s reign. Political figures from Britain and across the world will be in attendance, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson will give a reading.
“We come together in this cathedral church today to offer to God our thanks and praise for the reign of Her Majesty the Queen and especially for her 70 years of faithful and dedicated service,” David Ison, the Dean of St Paul’s, will say.
The cathedral’s ‘Great Paul’ bell – the largest in the country and dating back to 1882 – will also be rung for the first time at a royal occasion since being restored last year after a mechanism broke in the 1970s.
After the service, a reception will be held at the Guildhall hosted by the Lord Mayor of the City of London.
Thursday marked not only the start of the Jubilee, but also the 69th anniversary of the coronation of Elizabeth, who became queen on the death of her father George VI in February 1952 and is head of state of 14 other countries including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
She has now been on the throne for longer than any of her predecessors in 1,000 years, and is the third-longest reigning monarch ever of a sovereign state. Opinion polls show she remains hugely popular and respected among British people.