The Queen's Diamond Jubilee: River Pageant

Things to do, Festivals
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© Joseph Bennett The Royal Barge

The largest flotilla on the river in modern times and potentially the largest live public event ever held in London takes place at high water on Sunday afternoon in honour of the Queen's diamond jubilee. Up to 1,000 boats are anticipated to take part in this pageant on the Thames, with around one million spectators expected to line the riverbanks and public spaces (public viewing areas on the bridges have already been allocated by London boroughs and selected charities).

The Queen will lead the flotilla, with historic and modern boats assembled from across the UK, the Commonwealth and around the world, including pyrotechnic barges and passenger boats carrying up to 20,000 flag-waving members of the public. The pageant will start upriver of Battersea Bridge and finish downriver of Tower Bridge. The boats will muster between Hammersmith and Putney bridges earlier in the day and disperse as far downriver as Greenwich.

The flotilla will be divided into ten sections, 'Man-powered', 'Commonwealth Flags', 'Royal Squadron', 'Dunkirk Little Ships', 'Historic and Service Vessels', 'Working Boats', 'Recreational Motor Boats', 'Narrow Boats and Barges' plus two final sections of passenger boats, with 'herald' barges separating each section, playing a variety of contemporary and classical music including pieces commissioned for the occasion. Performances include trumpeters from the Royal Marines, who play fanfares to each of the Thames bridges to herald the arrival of the Queen, Handel's 'Water Music' and 'Music for Royal Fireworks' performed by the Academy of Ancient Music, nautical airs and sea shanties played by the band of Royal Marines Plymouth, traditional folk songs sung by a choir drawn from across the Commonwealth, and popular music and show tunes performed by The Mayor's Jubilee Band. There will also be a floating belfry, its chiming bells answered by those from riverbank churches – as well as churches up and down the country.

The pageant starts at around 2.40pm as the jubilee bells start ringing and the floating belfry slips its moorings to take its position as the lead vessel. Immediately behind it will be the 'man-powered' section of the pageant, with 265 rowed vessels including Gloriana, rowed by 18 oarsmen and women including Matthew Pinsent and Steve Redgrave.

The Queen and other senior members of the royal family, including William and Kate, will travel aboard The Spirit of Chartwell, which is being transformed in the style of royal barges of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with a red and gold colour scheme, opulent interiors and flower displays. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will sit on ornate chairs under a gold canopy. At 2.30pm they embark at Cadogan Pier in Chelsea (having travelled from Chelsea Harbour on board HMY Britannia's royal barge) and, at 3pm, join the flotilla immediately behind the man-powered section. The royal party will halt when it reaches HMS President Royal Naval Research base, just downriver of Tower Bridge (around 4.15pm) and the Queen will watch the rest of the flotilla as it floats past. Tower Bridge will open in salute. At 5.30pm, the pageant will be brought to a close as the last vessel in the flotilla, the Symphony, carrying members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir playing patriotic music, floats between an 'Avenue of Sail' made up of historic sailing ships moored from London Bridge to beyond Tower Bridge.

The flotilla will travel at a rate of four knots and will take about 75 minutes to pass any given point. Thames piers, riverside roads and bridges will be closed to traffic, and big screens will be distributed along the route. Battersea Park will host a day-long programme of family events, with music, a traditional funfair and artist-led Jubilee-themed entertainment. To find out what's on to celebrate The Queen's Diamond Jubilee visit:

Bridges closed 7am to 9pm:

Albert Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, Tower Bridge, Millennium Bridge and the Jubilee footbridge.

Bridges open to vehicles and pedestrians except between 3-5.30pm:

Vauxhall Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Southwark Bridge and London Bridge. TFL advises that these bridges are designated river crossings, not viewing locations; pedestrians who linger will be moved on.

Bridges open to pedestrians only all day, for crossing, not viewing:

Battersea Bridge and Chelsea Bridge.


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