The highlight of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations looks set to be the spectacular River Thames pageant featuring a 1,000-strong flotilla and a remarkable exhibition at the National Maritime Museum allows visitors to explore the enduring relationship between the Royal Family and the thoroughfare.Five centuries of river pageant history can be viewed in this collection of artefacts, paintings and manuscripts at the Royal River exhibition.
Visitors are shown how the Thames has acted as a stage for royal and civic ceremonies ranging from royal weddings and state funerals to the Lord Mayor’s annual procession.
It also shows how river pageants were used to celebrate the coronations of Tudors and Stuarts.
The exhibition’s curator David Starkey said: “What more appropriate way of celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen, who will herself, at the climax of the celebrations, lead another grand royal river pageant?”
This great thoroughfare which divides the city's north and south once connected royal palaces and pleasure gardens, and was itself a focus of entertainment and merrymaking.
Among the amazing items on display is the spectacular painting by Canaletto of the Thames which allows visitors to see the magnificence of the Lord Mayor’s pageant, thought to have be held in 1747.
The painting is on loan to the National Maritime Museum and is in England for the first time since it was created.
A 5,000 pixel-wide image is also projected on to a screen and the moving imagery allows visitors to see the detail close up.
Evoking the sights, sounds and even the smells of pageantry and celebration on the river, highlights include rarely seen uniforms and the sixteenth-century Pearl Sword, which to this day the monarch must touch upon entering the City of London.
There is also a section on swan upping, the annual census of swans on the Thames, which are still technically owned by the Queen if they are unmarked.
The wealth of fascinating objects includes paintings depicting Anne Boleyn’s coronation procession, Lord Nelson’s funeral and even the horror of the ‘Great Stink’ in the mid 1800s.
The Royal River exhibit runs at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich until 9 September.