Queen Elizabeth’s 1000-ship flotilla lights up the Thames

June 4, 2012


LONDON: In the most public celebration of the four-day commemoration of the diamond jubilee of her reign, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, as part of a flotilla of 1,000 ships, sailed on a red and gold royal barge down the Thameswatched by a million people who lined the banks or occupied more luxurious vantage positions. Elizabeth’s barge is a special vessel used for ceremonies. Members of the royal family and a select few that included her confidante at the Commonwealth secretariat, Kamlesh Sharma, were her guests.

A white boat with five sailors carrying the Indian tricolour fluttered in the stiff English breeze. India is one of 54 Commonwealth nations joining the celebration. Around 500 British MPs gathered on balconies of the parliament at Westminster to the accompaniment of a jazz band.

British PM David Cameron and his spouse Samantha were at a viewing point on a naval craft, HMS President, anchored near their home. There was buzz that Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were lapping up the waters at a street party in Richmond. Actor Michael Caine and his wife Shakira organized a get-together at their flat in Chelsea.

Elizabeth ascended the British throne and became head of Commonwealth after her father, George VI’s death in 1952. Lord Louis Mountbatten , the last viceroy of India, had tried in vain to convince India’s first PM Nehru about independent India retaining his cousin, George, as head of state. Nehru produced the formula of the Indian Republic being a member state of the Commonwealth, with the British monarch as the latter’s head, as a compromise.

Elizabeth inherited the Commonwealth and has visited 116 countries. India has received her thrice: in 1961, 1983 and 1997, with the one in 1983 being to inaugurate that year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Elizabeth was younger than Indira, Nehru’s daughter , as well as the children of then president Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. But behind the public glare, their interactions were informal.

In 1963, following a state visit to the UK, Radhakrishnan was invited to extend his stay for a private retreat at Windsor Castle, one of Elizabeth’s official residences.

To read more, visit: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/Queen-Elizabeths-1000-ship-flotilla-lights-up-the-Thames/articleshow/13796339.cms

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