Jubilee marked with pomp and pageantry
Sun, June 03, 2012 - 6:10 PM
London (CNN) -- The Thames became a sea of red, white and blue Sunday, as tens of thousands celebrated the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II -- so perhaps it was only fitting that alongside all the flags, another great British tradition was very much in evidence: Gray skies and rain.
Some 20,000 people took to the water aboard 1,000 vessels for a river pageant featuring dragon boats, a floating belfry and the royal barge. The event -- inspired by regal riverside celebrations of the past -- was the largest such celebration on the Thames for hundreds of years.
Around a million people were expected to line the route to cheer on the queen, at the head of a seven-mile long flotilla. But bad weather meant a planned fly-past was canceled.
Isabella Hales and her family staked out their claim to a spot near Tower Bridge -- where the festivities reached a climax on Sunday evening.
"It's cold, but I don't mind," the 10 year old, wearing a cardboard Duchess of Cambridge mask that was rapidly dissolving in the drizzle, told CNN. "It was raining for the queen's coronation too. I'm just really excited, I can't wait."
"It's only the second time someone has reigned for 60 years," her aunt Laura Hales added. "It's a big accomplishment, and we wanted to celebrate that.
"There are about 20 of us -- we've come well prepared," she said, pointing out picnic supplies, party masks of the royal family -- including a corgi -- and pink champagne, "And we don't care what the weatherman says.
"Here's to Liz!" she toasted, raising her glass.
Margaretta Soulsby, from Dorset, was the first to arrive at Tower Bridge on Saturday. She had planned to camp out, but when it began raining, stewards persuaded her to spend the night in a tent nearby.
Soulsby told CNN it was "well worth it -- I'm in the perfect position," and said such events made her very proud to be British.
"In 1935, when I was 10, my father took the family to The Mall to watch the silver jubilee celebrations for King George V and Queen Mary, and I've been privileged to be present at all of the major royal events since then."
After gathering upriver in west London, the flotilla made its way from Battersea Bridge to Tower Bridge, passing through the heart of Britain's capital city over the course of several hours.
At the front were 300 man-powered boats, with thousands of volunteers propelling them down river, flags and streamers fluttering around them.
A barge carrying the eight Royal Jubilee Bells -- the largest of which, at nearly half a ton, is named for the monarch -- led the way, with peals of bells ringing out from church towers along the river.w
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