An armada of 1,000 boats sailed down the River Thames in London on Sunday as part of a Diamond Jubilee tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, transforming the river into a spectacle of colors.
The 86-year-old monarch has held the throne for 60 years, but the view on the river was reminiscent of a scene from a mid-18th century Canaletto painting titled "The River Thames with St. Paul's Cathedral on Lord Mayor's Day."
Boats of all shapes, sizes and colors navigated the river as Union Jack-waving throngs looked on and waved to the monarch and the royal family from the river banks and bridges, despite the drizzly weather. The queen, looking splendid in a silver and white dress with matching coat, waved back to all those who came out to celebrate her longevity.
Queen Elizabeth's dress was designed by the royal dresser Angela Kelly and has been in the works for a year, according to Sky News. She stood out among the red, gold and purple surrounding her on the royal barge. The royals travelled in fine style on the Spirit of Chartwell. Their boat towered over the accompanying skiffs, barges, narrow boats, motor launches, rowboats and sailing vessels from around the world.
Organizers said the pageant is the biggest to grace the river in 350 years.
The flotilla passed such landmarks as the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and St. Paul's Cathedral. Their journey will end near the Tower Bridge. The Associated Press reported that the last comparable royal pageant was held for King Charles II in 1662. At the time, diarist Samuel Pepys recorded boats so numerous he could "see no water," the AP said.
The celebration for the queen's Diamond Jubilee began Saturday with a royal day at the races. On Monday she will be at a pop concert in front of Buckingham Palace where Elton John and Paul McCartney will be featured. The pace will calm down Tuesday with a closing service at St. Paul's Cathedral. The AP reported that there will also be a carriage procession through the streets of London before the queen makes an appearance with her family on the Buckingham Palace balcony.
Queen Elizabeth took the throne in 1952 when her father, King George VI, died at the age of 56. Most Britons living today know no other monarch.