Canadian contingent present at Queen's Jubilee flotilla
Published Sunday, June 3, 2012 10:37PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 11, 2012 6:35PM EDT
More than 1,000 boats sailed down the River Thames in London on Sunday, including a marked Canadian presence, in a flotilla tribute to Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years on the throne.
The Queen and members of her family led the river pageant, the largest in some 350 years, aboard a flower-bedecked royal barge, accompanied by skiffs, barges, narrowboats, motor launches, row boats and sailing vessels from around the world.
Included in the contingent of vessels was a Canadian war canoe as well as a Dragon Boat, dubbed "Abreast from the west" -- piloted by a team of breast cancer survivors from British Columbia.
Rower Margaret Hobson said the group, which was among 4,500 groups that applied to be part of the flotilla, was told if they couldn't keep up along the 22-kilometre route, "we'll be towed away.
"So we're calling it the tow of shame."
In the end, they made it under their own steam.
"It's very emotional," Hobson said through tears. "I'm pretty tired. It was an unbelievable experience."
The spectacle is a tribute to Britain's past --monarchs used the river as their main highway for centuries, and naval power built the island nation's once-great empire -- as well as its abiding love of boats and the sea.
"This spectacle we will not see the like of anything like this in our lifetimes again. This is only the second Diamond Jubilee in the country's history and there is particular affection for Elizabeth II so I think all of these reasons and the spectacle is the reason why so many people are going to be heading down there," CTV News' London Bureau Chief Tom Kennedy said from London before the event.
Despite the cool and wet weather, an estimated one million people lined the banks and bridges between Hammersmith and Tower Bridge in London, feting the British monarch whose longevity has given her the status of the nation's favourite grandmother.
"We in Britain are experts at not letting the weather spoil our fun," said Adrian Evans, pageant master for Sunday's flotilla, said beforehand. "The London Philharmonic Orchestra will be playing `Singin' In The Rain' as they travel down the river, and the crowd can sing along with them."
Hundreds camped out overnight to secure prime riverside spots.
"It would have been wonderful if it had been sunny like last Sunday but we have come prepared," said 57-year-old Christine Steele. "We have got blankets, brollies (umbrellas), flags and bunting. We even got our glittery Union Jack hats and wigs, and the Champagne is on ice."
The four-day Diamond Jubilee celebrations include thousands of street parties across the country on Sunday and a Monday pop concert in front of Buckingham Palace featuring Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney.
Kennedy said the celebrations have given the Brits a chance to show off their national pride while providing a grand excuse for a party.
"It is pride. It is nationalism. It is affection for the Queen," Kennedy said. "This country really really is in the mood for a party right now. I think the Queen is right now providing the perfect excuse for it. So get ready."
Four days of Diamond Jubilee festivities began Saturday with the Queen taking in a 41-gun salute by the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery at Horse Guards Parade in central London.
The 86-year-old monarch was then whisked away to the Epsom Derby, one of Britain's most prestigious horse races. An open-topped car drove the Queen around the racecourse before she emerged to shake hands with waiting dignitaries.
The Queen, accompanied by her husband Prince Philip and other members of the royal family, were treated to an aerial display by members of the British Army's Red Devils parachute team before the main event -- the racing -- where a horse with the regal name of Camelot won the featured race.
Late Sunday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in London, where he will attend the televised concert at Buckingham Palace on Monday, a Tuesday service at St. Paul's Cathedral with the Queen and the Royal Family and a luncheon on Wednesday where he will be on hand for the unveiling of a new portrait of the Queen.