The Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee without the duke at her side

·6-min read

The Queen was only the second British monarch to reach a Diamond Jubilee and the celebrations were a triumphant success.

With the royal family enjoying a surge in popularity in the wake of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding, the four-day Jubilee festivities in June 2012 drew large crowds.

Sadly, for most of the celebrations, the Queen was forced to mark her 60 years on the throne without her husband at her side.

The Duke of Edinburgh, then 90, suffered a bladder infection and was in hospital for five days after enduring a wet and windy trip down the Thames during the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant.

On the Spirit of Chartwell
The Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge on board the Spirit of Chartwell on the River Thames (John Stillwell/PA)

The Queen and her family stood for virtually all of their procession from Albert Bridge to just past Tower Bridge.

More than 1,000 boats including kayaks, Dunkirk “little” ships, dragon boats, tugs and narrowboats sailed along the famous waterway on Sunday June 3.

At the heart of the flotilla was the Queen’s ornate royal barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, where she was joined by Philip, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

Despite the cold and rainy conditions, more than 1.25 million spectators, cheering and waving flags, lined the river banks for the once-in-a-lifetime spectacle which set a new Guinness World Record for the number of boats in a parade.

Diamond Jubilee River Pageant
The flotilla makes its way towards Tower Bridge, during the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant (Sean Dempsey/PA)

The Queen looked delighted as she caught sight of the life-size puppet horse Joey, from the play War Horse, which galloped along the roof of the National Theatre on the South Bank and reared up on its hind legs in salute.

When a nautical sea shanty was performed on a nearby musical barge, she bobbed slightly while Camilla got into the full swing of things, moving in time to the tune, as Charles happily tapped his sword.

Across the country, some six million people settled down together for meals as part of the Big Jubilee Lunch project, with the largest taking place in Greenwich, south east London, for 10,000 diners.

On Monday June 4, the Queen opened up the gardens of her Buckingham Palace home to thousands of picnickers, who were presented with hampers containing cupcakes, tea-smoked Scottish salmon and Diamond Jubilee chicken – an updated version of coronation chicken.

The Jubilee concert
Robbie Williams performs outside Buckingham Palace during the Jubilee concert (Anthony Devlin/PA)

The revellers, who won tickets in a public ballot, headed afterwards to the Jubilee concert, staged in front of the palace.

But the musical tribute to the Queen was, in part, overshadowed by the announcement, made a few hours earlier, that the duke had been taken ill.

The event, organised by Take That’s Gary Barlow, saw acts such as Stevie Wonder, Sir Tom Jones, Sir Elton John, Sir Cliff Richard, Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue take to the stage.

Grace Jones, dressed in a red and black PVC leotard and large head-dress, hula-hooped through her entire rendition of Slave To The Rhythm.

Singer Grace Jones
Grace Jones on stage during the Diamond Jubilee concert (Ian West/PA)

The Princess Royal and then archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams were seen singing along in the royal box to an a capella performance of Two Little Boys by the now disgraced Rolf Harris.

Cult ’80s band Madness took to the roof of the palace to sing Our House as a light show projected rows of terraced houses on to the royal residence.

Along The Mall, half a million people gathered behind the specially constructed stage and arena for 18,000 concertgoers, watching the performances on big screens.

The Queen herself arrived halfway through the concert and was spotted wearing yellow earplugs.

After a finale by Sir Paul McCartney, she took to the stage with Charles and Camilla and the entire cast of singers.

Charles paid a moving speech to his mother, calling her “Mummy” to huge cheers from the crowd and saying they were “celebrating the life and service of a very special person”.

Charles and the Queen at the concert
The Prince of Wales pays tribute to the Queen during the Diamond Jubilee concert (Ian West/PA)

The Queen looked emotional as the prince talked about the duke.

“The only sad thing about this evening is that my father cannot be here with us because unfortunately he’s been taken unwell,” Charles said.

“Ladies and gentlemen, if we shout loud enough he might just hear us in hospital.”

Philip with Beatrice and Eugenie
Philip at the Epsom Derby with granddaughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie before he was taken to hospital during the Diamond Jubilee weekend (Steve Parsons/PA)

Spectators stamped their feet and chants of “Philip, Philip” broke out.

More than 4,200 beacons were lit across the country, with the Queen lighting the final one in The Mall by placing a giant crystal into a pod on the stage.

A huge firework display, set off from the roof of the palace which was bathed in patriotic red, white and blue lights, crowned off the evening.

Fireworks above Buckingham Palace
Fireworks above Buckingham Palace during the Diamond Jubilee concert (Ian West/PA)

The final day of the four-day weekend, the Queen had spent the first day at the Epsom Derby, included a traditional service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday June 5.

The Queen cut a solitary figure as she walked though the cathedral alone without the duke and his absence gave the nation a glimpse of how much the monarch depended on having him at her side.

Charles and Camilla stepped in for Philip and rode with the Queen on their return to the palace in the traditional carriage procession, with the duchess sitting next to the monarch, a position that would have been unthinkable during the Golden Jubilee of 2002.

The Queen and Camilla
The Queen and Camilla ride in a carriage together during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations (Tom Hevezi/PA)

It was a slimmed-down monarchy on the palace balcony for the flypast, interpreted as an image of austerity in difficult economic times.

In 2002, 20 members of the royal family took to the famous frontage.

But in 2012 the Queen was joined by only those at the very top of the succession list and their wives, Charles, Camilla, second in line to the throne William and his wife Kate, and third in line Harry.

The royals on the balcony
A slimmed down monarchy on the palace balcony (David Jones/PA)

Once again The Mall was packed with well-wishers.

In a televised address, the Queen thanked the nation for celebrating her Jubilee.

“The events that I have attended to mark my Diamond Jubilee have been a humbling experience,” she said.

“It has touched me deeply to see so many thousands of families, neighbours and friends celebrating together in such a happy atmosphere.”

She added: “I hope that memories of all this year’s happy events will brighten our lives for many years to come.”