Queen's Jubilee: Events to mark Elizabeth II's golden anniversary

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ot so long ago, planners for a new celebration, to be called the String of Pearls Festival, convinced the operators of numerous revered institutions up and down London's Thames River to open their doors a bit wider to the public during the year 2000, as a way to commemorate the millennium.

Festival director Dylan Hammond said, "We told them 'it won't happen again.' " After all, a new millennium only arrives every 1,000 years.

But, his team came calling again in less than two years, saying the same thing -- "it won't happen again" -- as they put together another String of Pearls Festival, this time to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee in 2002. She ascended to the throne Feb. 6, 1952; the coronation was in 1953.

Indeed, Hammond continued, it seems unlikely another monarch will sit on the British throne for 50 years. Certainly, for Americans who are Anglophiles or simply like the pomp associated with royalty, many events slated for the 2002 anniversary are made to order.

Given the Jubilee celebrates the queen, visitors might reasonably aim for a chance to see her, so highlights of the year's events follow, starting with those that offer some chance of catching a glimpse of her majesty:

• Golden Jubilee Weekend, June 1 to 4. The centerpiece of the year's activities is a four-day weekend of formal commemorative events, concerts, church services and parties. Some activities are invitation-only, some are open to the public by lot and others are available to all.

Buckingham Palace Gardens will be opened for free BBC concerts on the evenings of June 1 (for classical music) and June 3 (for pop music). Tickets will be allocated this spring by ballot to 14,000 for each day's event. Watch for details at www.goldenjubilee.gov.uk or www.bbc.co.uk/musiclive.

The queen is expected to attend although this has not been confirmed.

Clients visiting London can watch a royal ceremonial procession to St. Paul's Cathedral, above, site of a June 4 National Service of Thanksgiving. On the morning of June 4, dubbed Jubilee Day, the queen will attend a by-invitation National Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral, but visitors can watch the ceremonial procession to St. Paul's.

These events will be complemented by plenty of celebratory noise-making and partying.

On Sunday, June 2, churches will ring their bells across the kingdom, as if in warmup to June 3, when at noon, those bells, cannons, gongs, whistles and drums will announce the start of the Golden Jubilee Summer Party, a nationwide collection of locally organized garden and street parties. The BBC's series of Music Live Street Festivals is set for the same day at points throughout the country; watch for details at www.bbc.co.uk/musiclive or at www.goldenjubileesummerparty.co.uk.

Also, gun salutes will be heard in London at noon and at 1 p.m.

The day's events will end with a lighting of beacons and bonfires across the U.K. and the Commonwealth. The use of fires is an ancient communication system in Britain. The queen will start the process by lighting the Central Beacon in London. Fireworks in the capital will follow.

For just one last official party, on June 4, after the thanksgiving service, there will be a carnival pageant on the Mall.

• Royal Windsor Horse Show, May 15 to 19, and the Queen's Birthday Parade, June 15.

The queen and members of her family attend the annual horse show at Windsor Castle. This year, the show will include a spectacular, slated for the evenings of May 16, 17 and 18, called "All the Queen's Horses," featuring more than 1,000 horses, an orchestra, choirs and dancers. Her majesty is expected to attend one evening, but for security reasons, the public is not likely to know which night the queen will appear until about the first of May.

Tickets are £35 to £75, and purchase information is offered at www.allthequeenshorses.co.uk. To book, call (011) 44-870 121-5370 or reserve at www.wayahead.com (search for the Windsor Horse Show). May 13 is the booking deadline.

The official birthday isn't a Jubilee event, but on June 15, the queen will travel from Buckingham Palace at around 10:40 a.m. down the Mall to the Horse Guard Parade for the Trooping the Colour ceremony and will return in time to stand on the palace balcony at 1 p.m. for an RAF flyby. People line the Mall for the processions, and tickets (costing about $22) are available to the ceremonies at the parade ground on a ballot basis.

Apply by mail before Feb. 28 and, from overseas, enclose international reply coupons to get a response by mail. The address is The Brigade Major (Trooping the Colour), Headquarters Household Division, Horse Guards, Whitehall, London SW1A 2AX.

• A modern-day royal progress, between May 1 and Aug. 5. The queen's predecessors would have envied the ease with which Elizabeth II will be able to visit points throughout the kingdom, without having to make one long overland journey.

Hence, another possibility for seeing the queen -- again with no guarantees -- is to schedule jaunts outside of London to coincide with her itinerary.

She is slated to make more than a dozen trips to celebrate the anniversary with her subjects at points ranging from Cornwall in the far southwest, at the beginning of May, to Scotland, for a six-day ramble (May 23 to 29).

She will go to Manchester twice, to open the Commonwealth Games on July 25 and to close them, as well, on Aug. 4. In addition, she will attend a Royal Military Review in Portsmouth on June 27.

The multiple itineraries, still works-in-progress, are locatable at www.goldenjubilee.gov.uk (click on Queen's Programme), with precise details expected to appear in the last weeks before the trips.

• String of Pearls Festival, March through December. More than 80 institutions -- public and private, religious and secular -- have agreed to participate and each must plan something special that would not be offered in any other year. The points of interest stretch from Windsor Castle and Eton College at the western end to Woolwich to the east of the Docklands.

Visitors will have a unique level of access. So, for example, they can view the Secret Gardens of Eton or visit areas of the Parliament building and of Westminster Abbey not normally seen. Or, visitors can come to Lincoln's Inn (one of the historic Inns of Court complexes that house the offices -- or chambers -- of the city's trial lawyers) for Shakespeare on the lawn and free concerts in the chapel, or they may take in a music festival or lectures at Southwark Cathedral (located south of the Thames near the Globe Theatre. It is the burial site for one of the Shakespeares, William's brother).

The easternmost point, Woolwich, is home to the Royal Artillery, to be host to theatrical performances and more, and surely one of the most narrowly focused special events is the exhibition on royal fans, set for the Fan Museum in Greenwich.

Most events are free, though some one-time activities carry a charge. Specifics on dates and other details are still to come at www.stringofpearls.org.uk.

Separately, Jubilee planners created a self-guided walking tour of London, called the Jubilee Walkway, with its own map and Web site; the site at www.jubileewalkway.com is still in development.

Covering top sites on both side of the Thames, the tour is an update of a similar walking tour created for the queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977.

The new walk will take visitors past the Jubilee Bridge, to open in 2002, London's first covered footbridge since 1176.

• Special exhibitions and events throughout the country, usually in the spring and summer months. Some examples follow:

The Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace, under renovation, will be reopened in May, and a new Queen's Gallery will be built close to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Both will exhibit art from the Royal Collection. In addition, a touring exhibit of Da Vinci works from Windsor will make the rounds of the U.K. in 2002.

Over Jubilee Weekend, Hever Castle in Kent will host four days of Elizabethan Revelries, referring to the first Elizabeth, whose mother, Anne Boleyn, was born at this castle. The event will feature jesters, archers and other such performers, market stalls and even "Elizabeth I." (www.hevercastle.co.uk)

The Museum of Costume in Bath is hosting an exhibit, "Jubilee! Dresses From the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen," through Nov. 3. (www.museumofcostume.co.uk, for information on the museum)

London's Victoria & Albert Museum set an exhibit, "The Tiara Today," for March 21 to July 14. (www.vam.ac.uk, use search word Tiara)

On May 1, Kensington Palace will open a yearlong exhibit, "A Century of Royal Wedding Dresses," covering the wedding-day garb of five queens from Victoria to Elizabeth. (www.hrp.org.uk for information on the palace)

For information on all Jubilee-related events, the most referenced Web addresses are www.goldenjubilee.gov.uk and www.londontouristboard.com/goldenjubilee. Also, www.travelbritain.org (click Events under UK Databases) lists relevant events including some local street festivities.

GET MORE!

For more coverage of the Queen's Jubilee events, see the following articles:

Queen's Jubilee: Operators give planning tips
Queen's Jubilee: A royal itinerary
Queen's Jubilee: On the Web
Queen's Jubilee: Heard on site

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