Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations begin

Four days of celebrations honouring Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne are under way with a display of British military traditions stretching from the days of horse and cannon to the jet age.

Formal celebrations for the Platinum Jubilee began on Thursday with Trooping the Colour, an annual military review that has marked the sovereign’s official birthday since 1760.

The Queen made her way onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace just after 12.20pm (9.20pm AEST), resplendent in blue and using a walking stick.

Prince William dons bearskin hat as UK celebrates Platinum Jubilee

Her majesty, who first emerged alongside Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, was set to be joined by working members of the royal family before 70 aircraft roared overheard.

The jubilee is being commemorated with a four-day holiday weekend in the UK.

The celebration of Elizabeth’s reign includes a service of thanksgiving on Friday at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, a concert at Buckingham Palace on Saturday and a pageant staged by thousands of performers drawn from schools and community groups around the country on Sunday afternoon.

Throughout the weekend, neighbourhood organisations and individuals are expected to hold thousands of street parties around the country, repeating a tradition that began with the Queen’s coronation in 1953.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Kent watch from the balcony during the Trooping the Colour in London. (AP)

The 96-year-old Queen is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and the first to reach the milestone of seven decades on the throne.

The jubilee is giving many people — even those often indifferent to the monarchy — a chance to reflect on the state of the nation and the huge changes that have taken place during her reign.

Former prime minister John Major — one of the 14 prime ministers of the Queen’s reign — said the monarch’s stoic presence had helped steer the country over the decades.

Cambridge kids trooping the colour
Prince George, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte in the carriage procession at Trooping the Colour during Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee in The Mall. (Photo: Karwai Tang) (WireImage)

“The Queen has represented our better selves for over 70 years,” he told the BBC.

In a written jubilee message, the Queen thanked people in Britain and across the Commonwealth involved in organising the celebrations.

Queen Elizabeth II grins widely as she watches the Trooping the Color ceremony from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. (AP)

“I know that many happy memories will be created at these festive occasions,” Elizabeth said.

“I continue to be inspired by the goodwill shown to me, and hope that the coming days will provide an opportunity to reflect on all that has been achieved during the last 70 years, as we look to the future with confidence and enthusiasm.”

Congratulations arrived from world leaders. French President Emmanuel Macron called Elizabeth “the golden thread that binds our two countries” and one of “very few constants” on the international stage.

Kate Middleton trooping the colour
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, during the Trooping the Colour parade. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images) (Getty)

“You are our friend, such a close ally, our example of service to others,” Macron told the Queen in an English-language video message.

The name of the long weekend’s first event, Trooping the Colour, refers to a regimental flag, or “colour,” that is trooped through the ranks.

Britain’s annual tradition for the Queen’s birthday is a ceremonial reenactment of the way battle flags were once shown to soldiers to make sure they would recognise a crucial rallying point if they became disoriented in combat.

The Queen’s guard during the Trooping the Colour parade. (Getty)

The troops that take part come from the army’s household division, composed of the seven regiments that perform ceremonial duties for the queen. Their members are fully trained soldiers and often deployed overseas when not on ceremonial duty.

Each year a different unit has the honour of trooping its colour. The 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards will have the spotlight during the Platinum Jubilee.

Thousands of people, some of whom camped overnight, lined the parade route — many of them sporting Union Jack flags, party hats or plastic tiaras.

Members of Band of the Household Cavalry take part in the Queen's Birthday Parade, the Trooping the Color in London, Wednesday, June 2, 2022, on the first of four days of celebrations to mark the Platinum Jubilee. The events over a long holiday weekend in the U.K. are meant to celebrate the monarchs 70 years of service. (Paul Ellis/Pool Photo via AP)
Members of Band of the Household Cavalry take part in the Queen’s Birthday Parade. (AP)

Carly Martin, who caught a late-night bus from south London with her daughter, said she had come “to make memories”.

“You’re never going to see this again in your lifetime,” she said.

“At least not in mine, maybe not in my daughter’s … 70 years — it is all I have ever known.”

The Queen is expected to appear twice on the balcony of Buckingham Palace but Prince Charles will play a key role during the event, taking the salute of passing soldiers on his mother’s behalf.

Princess Anne trooping the colour
Princess Anne, Princess Royal. rides horseback during the Trooping the Colour parade. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images) (Getty)

Elizabeth has had trouble getting around of late, and her courtiers have been careful to keep make things as simple for her as possible.

The night before the first big events, royal supporters find the best spots on the Mall and prepare to sleep there. (Getty)

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will join other royals to watch the spectacle. The couple have travelled from their home in California to take part in the celebrations.

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