On Monday night (June 4), London’s Buckingham Palace morphed into a pop venue as some of the most famous names in music performed for the Diamond Jubilee, marking 60 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.
More than 18,000 guests sat in stands set in a half-circle around the Victoria Monument outside of Buckingham Palace to watch the event, the first organized by the Royal Family to be held outside of the palace gates. In the past, the palace’s inner garden has been the preferred venue.
Along The Mall, tens of thousands of spectators watched the event big screen TVs, while early estimates say that 8 million UK viewers and millions more worldwide tuned in to watch live. Performers included Robbie Williams, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Kylie Minogue, Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones.
The climax of the evening came at the end of the musical performances when Sir Paul McCartney introduced Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and other members of the Royal Family.
The Queen, 86, removed her black cape with a velvet collar to reveal a lovely yellow dress and walked on stage. Prince Charles spoke on her behalf, thanking the musicians, the comedians, the 600 technicians as well as the British people.
Prince Charles paused to give special recognition to his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, 91, who was unable to attend the concert because of a bladder infection that became serious earlier in the evening. The Prince said: “The only sad thing about this evening is that my father couldn’t be here with us because unfortunately he is taken unwell…. But if we shout loud enough, he might just hear us in hospital.”
The crowd chanted “Philip, Philip.”
The Queen deposited a diamond-shaped crystal in a pod, which the National Beacon on The Mall. Casting six-foot-high flames in the air, the National Beacon was the last in a sequence of about 4,200 beacons that were set alight across Commonwealth nations and other nations sympathetic to the United Kingdom during the previous 12 hours.
A few minutes earlier across the United Kingdom, hundreds of beacons, a mix of modern flame-generating devices and traditional bonfires, were lit at various manmade and natural landmarks.
During the evening’s genre-spanning performances, there were many highlights on stage, including a performance of “Sing,” a song written specifically for the Queen. About 200 people from around the Commonwealth sang the piece, co-written by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, the famous creator of stage musicals, and Gary Barlow, a singer with the British band Take That and a principal organizer of the concert.
While watching the concert, the Queen seemed the most animated during Stevie Wonder‘s performance of “Superstition,” which she clapped along to in earnest from the Royal Box. Joining her in the front row was Camilla, wearing a light-blue ensemble, between her husband Prince Charles and brother-in-law Prince Andrew. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sat with Prince Harry. Kate eagerly waved her Union flag throughout much of the concert.
Two of the more eye-catching moments on stage were when former Beatle Paul McCartney played “Live and Let Die” while dramatic pyrotechnics lit up Buckingham Palace. Prior to that, singer Grace Jones managed to keep swirling a hula-hoop around her hips while singing “Slave to the Rhythm.”
–Sean O’Neill is a London-based correspondent for BBC Travel.