Queen Elizabeth II to miss Jubilee service amid ‘discomfort’

  • Queen Elizabeth II, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Louis, Princess Charlotte, Prince George, and Prince William watch from the balcony of Buckingham Place Thursday after the Trooping the Color ceremony in London. (Aaron Chown/Pool Photo via AP)

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II stepped gingerly onto the Buckingham Palace balcony Thursday, drawing wild cheers from the tens of thousands who came to join her at the start of four days of celebrations of her 70 years on the throne.

Her fans sported Union Jack flags, party hats or plastic tiaras. Some had camped overnight in hopes of glimpsing the 96-year-old queen, whose appearances are becoming rare, and a chance to watch the Trooping the Color — a military parade that has marked each sovereign’s official birthday since 1760.

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It was an explosion of joy in the massive crowd, one of the first big gatherings in the U.K. since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Everybody has got the same mission,” said Hillary Mathews, 70, who had come from Hertfordshire, outside London. “All the horrors that’s been going on in the world and in England at the moment are put behind us for a day, and we can just enjoy really celebrating the queen.”

Elizabeth, who became queen at 25, is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and the first to reach the milestone of seven decades on the throne.

Yet after a lifetime of good health, age has begun to catch up with her. Buckingham Palace announced late Thursday that the queen would not attend a thanksgiving church service Friday after experiencing “some discomfort” at events on Thursday. The palace said with “great reluctance” the monarch has decided to skip the service at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The queen has had trouble moving around in recent months, and has pulled out of many public events.

But Elizabeth took part Thursday night in lighting a chain of ceremonial beacons at Windsor Castle as planned.

The Jubilee celebrations go on for a long weekend, and it was not immediately known how the news would affect Jubilee events on Saturday and Sunday.

The palace says “the queen greatly enjoyed” Thursday’s events — and it showed.

She basked in her moment. Smiling, she chatted with her great-grandson Prince Louis, 4, who occasionally covered his ears as 70 military aircraft old and new swooped low over the palace to salute the queen. The six-minute display included a formation of Typhoon fighter jets flying in the shape of the number 70.

The queen, wearing a dusky dove blue dress designed by Angela Kelly, was joined on the balcony by more than a dozen royals — though not Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who gave up front-line royal duties two years ago.

The couple traveled to London from their home in California with their two young children to take a low-key part in the celebrations, and watched Thursday’s Trooping the Color with other members of the family.

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