Queen Elizabeth II off to the races at start of Jubilee
Published Saturday, June 2, 2012 11:11PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 11, 2012 6:32PM EDT
A full day of pomp and ceremony greeted Queen Elizabeth II in London Saturday as the long-reigning monarch marked formal celebrations of her 60 years on the throne.
Four days of Diamond Jubilee festivities began with the Queen taking in a 41-gun salute by the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery at Horse Guards Parade in central London.
Shortly after, the 86-year-old was 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, dressed in a royal blue coat and matching hat over a blue-and-white floral dress, was accompanied by her husband Prince Philip and other members of the royal family including her sons Prince Andrew and Prince Edward and Andrew's daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.
The royals 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.
The events are only the first round of revelry in four days of Diamond Jubilee celebrations, which include a trip down the River Thames and meet-and-greets with the Queen's fans.
Eager to take part in the royal fever, dozens of Canadian monarchists have flown across the Atlantic to join the festivities in London.
Royalist Cian Horrobin, who is leading a jubilee trip sponsored by the Monarchist League of Canada, said he and his 50 fellow travellers want to acknowledge the Queen's years of service.
"For us to be here seems only appropriate considering how often she's come to us," he told the Canadian Press in a telephone interview.
As Horrobin and his tour group throw themselves into jubilee festivities, the U.K. is readying itself for jubilee festivities. Across the country flags and bunting are being strung up, boats are being freshly painted and shops are filled with royal memorabilia.
60 years of 'dramatic change in the U.K.'
In an exclusive interview with Prince Andrew airing on a special edition of CTV National News Sunday, CTV News Chief Anchor Lisa LaFlamme asked the Queen's third child what family life is like for the royals.
Prince Andrew said that despite their differences, the family remains a close-knit group.
"We still have family time even though we are quite diversified in our different activities and different things that we each do. When we get together we are still as close a family as you can possibly imagine," he said.
Prince Andrew also said the Queen isn't at all nervous about the upcoming Jubilee events.
"She's done it before, and I'm sure she's going to do it again," he said.
And the government is making it easier for Britons to celebrate with the Queen, declaring Monday and Tuesday bank holidays, just for the occasion.
The Queen was only 25 when she became a monarch. Now at 86, she is widely recognized as a symbol of national strength. She is the oldest person to reign over the U.K., and only Queen Victoria had a longer reign.
The country has changed dramatically since Queen Elizabeth became the head of state. At the time, Winston Churchill was the prime minister and current Prime Minister David Cameron was not yet born.
Alan Watson, a member of the House of Lords who has written a book about Queen Elizabeth, told The Associated Press that the Jubilee is a special occasion for many Britons who largely view the Queen as a symbol of stability.
"These 60 years have been years of really dramatic change in the U.K., the tectonic plates have moved," he said.
"The country has lost its empire and is no longer in the front rank of power, and I really think that change has been enormously eased by her and what she represents. My feeling is she has enabled change by her reassurance of essential continuity."
The Queen also experienced personal setbacks, after witnessing the marriages of her children fall apart in the 1990s, as well as the 1997 death of Princess Diana -- an event that saddened the nation and prompted criticism of the Queen's rocky relationship with the late princess.
But all evidence suggests that the Queen's popularity is back.
Recent newspaper polls in the U.K. showed that affection for the Queen is widespread and crosses all ages, social classes and political leanings.
Kevin MacLeod, the Queen's secretary in Canada, said he's run into many Canadians in London who have crossed the pond to take part in Jubilee events.
"There's a great general outpouring of affection for the Queen," he said. "It's a great historic moment, but also a moment of great celebration."
MacLeod said he's run into many Canadians in London who have crossed the pond to take part in Jubilee events.
"The number of Canadians who are arriving to be part of a very historic moment is really invigorating and lovely to see," he said.
MacLeod noted that Canada has a unique relationship with the Queen, who has been an integral part of our history. Under the Queen's reign, Canada has had 11 different prime ministers and 11 different governors general, he said.
And this weekend is really a time to recognize the Queen's "incredible" life of service, he said.
"People are showing up to say ‘thank you' in all kinds of different, colourful and yet meaningful ways," said MacLeod. "It's really a happy occasion."
With files from The Associated Press