The Thanksgiving Mass at St Paul’s Cathedral was held without the Queen, due to “some discomfort” felt on Thursday. But his grandson Harry and his wife Meghan made their first official UK appearance since moving to California.
Without the queen, tired, but with Harry and Meghan: the British royal family met on Friday for a religious service celebrating 70 years of the historic reign of Elizabeth II, on the second day of her platinum jubilee.
Two years after leaving for California in pain, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex made their return in public for this royal mass. The day before, they had been barred from celebrations on the first day of the Jubilee, failing to appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
Very unpopular in the United Kingdom, the Duke of Sussex, military medals hanging from the jacket, and the Duchess, in an off-white dress, were however applauded by the crowd when they arrived at Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Later followed by the heirs to the throne, Charles, 73, and his son William, who turns 40 on June 21, with their wives.
The absent queen
Buckingham Palace announced Thursday evening the “reluctant” absence of the monarch, yet head of the Anglican Church and very religious, due to a certain “discomfort”. As more and more often, the queen, who has difficulty walking, was represented by her heir Charles.
She had been cheered on Thursday by tens of thousands of people on the balcony of the palace, and had taken part in the evening at Windsor Castle in a brief ceremony to light the illuminations.
The crowd gathered in the early morning in front of Saint-Paul. Guardsmen in traditional uniforms lined up in the forecourt and on the steps, and the bells rang continuously during the arrivals, following a precise order of protocol, with former Prime Ministers Tony Blair, David Cameron and Theresa May , then the current incumbent Boris Johnson, booed.
Rae Williams, 37, had brought a life-size cardboard image of the Queen with her “because she couldn’t come herself”. She says she attends all the events and likes Harry. “Meghan, I’m not sure, honestly,” she adds.
“It’s family, isn’t it?” said Julie Blewitt, 56, from the north of England: “This is a unique opportunity, it will never happen again,” she told AFP. “It won’t be the same without the queen.”
The religious service, attended by some 2,000 people, is one of the highlights of the four days of festivities celebrating the very popular Queen Elizabeth, who ascended the throne at the age of 25 on February 6, 1952.
“Your Majesty, we are sorry you are not here this morning but you are still in the saddle,” Bishop of York Stephen Cottrell said in his sermon, addressing the Queen who was watching the ceremony from television, in reference to his passion for horse racing. “And we are happy that it continues”.
Lunch in Windsor
The return of Harry and Meghan, who came from the United States with their two young children for the celebrations, has caused a lot of hostile ink to flow since their departure and their sensational confessions on American television.
Relations between Harry, 37, and William, 39, second in line to the throne, are almost non-existent. They are not much better with her father, Prince Charles.
According to the biographer of the Harry-Meghan couple, Omid Scobie, however, they had lunch with family members in Windsor on Thursday, giving the Queen the opportunity to meet their daughter Lilibet for the first time, who celebrates her first birthday on Saturday.
Many other events planned
The queen’s second son, Andrew, 62, was absent on Friday because he had Covid-19, according to Buckingham Palace. He has no official role since charges of sexual assault in connection with the Epstein case in the United States, which he ended by paying several million dollars.
The celebrations will continue on Saturday with a big evening concert in front of Buckingham Palace, before thousands of lunches and popular parties between neighbors on Sunday, and a huge parade through the streets of London in the evening, with nearly 10,000 participants.
Taking advantage of this patriotic atmosphere, and unlike a 96-year-old monarch who is preparing for the future, the Conservative government launched a consultation on Friday to restore, in the wake of Brexit, the use of the imperial measurement system, with the return of pounds instead of kilos in shops, and allow the size of pints to be certified with a logo representing a crown instead of the European CE.