LONDON: Horse-loving Queen Elizabeth was thanked for being “in the saddle” for 70 years as head of state at a service on Friday to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee, an event she missed due to her “mobility issues”.
Other senior members of the royal family joined a congregation of politicians, charity figures and groups the queen has supported for the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral in London to pay tribute to the sovereign’s record-breaking reign.
Four days of celebrations began on Thursday when a beaming Elizabeth waved to crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace after a military parade and Royal Air Force flypast. She later led the lighting of the Principal Platinum Jubilee Beacon at her Windsor Castle home near London.
The 96-year-old, who has been forced to cancel a series of engagements recently due to an “episodic mobility problem”, reluctantly pulled out of Friday’s service after experiencing “some discomfort” the previous day, the palace said.
Elizabeth, who is a devout Christian and also the titular head of the Church of England, watched the service on television at Windsor Castle.
Her son and heir Prince Charles, 73, represented her, while much attention was focused on her grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who were making their first public appearance together in Britain since stepping down from royal duties two years ago.
The couple moved to the United States to lead a more independent life, and have since delivered some stinging attacks on Buckingham Palace and the royal family. They were greeted by cheers and a few boos by fans outside, while members of the congregation strained to catch a glimpse as they walked through the cathedral.
Noting the queen’s well-known love of horse-racing, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell said in his sermon that her reign reflected the distance of the Grand National, the famous, gruelling steeplechase, rather than the Epsom Derby sprint.
“But with endurance through times of change and challenge, joy and sorrow, you continue to offer yourself in the service of our country and the Commonwealth,” he said.
“Your Majesty, we are sorry that you’re not here with us this morning, but we are so glad that you are still in the saddle.