A wave, a smile, and a spectacle – Queen brings curtain down on Platinum Jubilee celebrations

It was a wilfully surreal, breakneck, and often baffling race through seven decades of popular culture which spanned thousands of performers, elaborate puppets, and a kaleidoscope of colour. But at its end, all that mattered was when the balcony doors of Buckingham Palace were thrown open, and out stepped the woman at the centre of it all.

With a wave to the crowds below, the Queen brought an end to the Platinum Jubilee celebrations as, flanked by Prince Charles and Prince George, she smiled and waved to the crowds below. It was a fleeting moment, yet a fitting conclusion to four days of celebrations.

The closing chapter of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations was a frenetic finale more than 18 months in the planning. As with the events that preceded it, it will have divided opinion, but few could doubt its vaulting ambition.

It began with a vast military procession, complete with the Scots Guards, braving a balmy June afternoon in their red tunics and bearskin hats. They were among more than 1,750 people and 250 horses in a curtain-raising act dizzying in its scale, though all eyes were drawn to the 260 year-old Gold State Coach, making its first public appearance in 10 years.

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Nearly seventy years ago, it carried the Queen to and from her coronation. This time around, the Georgian era meshed with the 21st century as it was spirited down the Mall, with archival footage broadcast on to the coach’s windows, making it appear as if the monarch was in situ. Prince Charles stood smiling as the flag bearers passed by, while Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge watched on with their children.

After a half hour, Sir Chris Hoy helped usher in the second part of the pageant, Time of their Lives, billed as a “vibrant display of British life since 1972,” as Scotland’s most decorated Olympian spearheaded a hundreds-strong peloton down towards Buckingham Palace.

“It brought back memories of 2012 seeing everyone out celebrating and enjoying themselves,” Sir Chris said afterwards. “It was a wonderful honour.”

Such comparisons with 20 years ago felt apt as the formality of the pageant’s opening gave way to its second act, a breathless hodge podge of popular culture. Vintage Morris Minors vied for space alongside Lambeth walkers, with Sir Cliff Richard singing to the crowds from atop a 1950s double decker bus. For a few moments, it felt like a particularly feverish Brexit edition of Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony.

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The Queen takes to the balcony at Buckingham Palace along with her family at the end of the Platinum Jubilee pageant. Picture: BBC

Through the decades it whizzed on and on, with Lambrettas, Daleks, and Basil Brush, followed by space hoppers, Northern Soul dancers, and Mr Whippy vans. Speckled throughout it all was a who’s who of yesteryear, with little obvious rhyme or reason as to which bus they were on.

Angela Rippon, Timmy Mallett, and Johnny Ball partied along with Debbie McGhee, John Craven, and Bonnie Langford. Not forgetting the bloke who plays Ken Barlow in Coronation Street. They were followed by hundreds others, including the Hairy Bikers, Chris Eubank, and Gok Wan. Prue Leith was behind the wheel of a vintage Jaguar, but had to abandon the car after it broke down outside Buckingham Palace.

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Viewing the royal jamboree from Scotland is like tuning in from a far-off planet...

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At this point, the £15 million pageant’s intent was admirable, though at times it seemed to overreach in an attempt to celebrate every last British eccentricity. On occasion, the choices were interesting. The flagship representation of the 1990s was a bus teeming with former supermodels, with the vehicle’s fascia adorned with the smiley face logo popularised by acid house.

Sir Chris Hoy, right, leads a vast troupe of cyclists during the pageant. Picture: Chris Jackson/AP/Getty

The concessions to modernity were noticeably brief, and the ‘noughties’ segment was represented by music festivals - a staple of British music for several decades beforehand. Yet neither the good, the bad, nor the downright bizarre seemed to matter to the crowds. For hours, they whooped and hollered throughout, seemingly energised by the chaotic energy of it all. Perhaps they had been on the 1990s bus.

The pageant’s third act, Let's Celebrate, strived to tell the story of the Queen's life in 12 chapters, complete with toy Corgis on wheels and an Afro-Caribbean carnival-style interpretation of the Queen's 1953 coronation.

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None of it could be faulted for imagination, and many of the creations were beautiful. Cumulatively, however, it must have been thematically incomprehensive to those without the benefit of Clare Balding’s running commentary on the BBC.

The inclusion of a 20 foot high Lady Godiva puppet, giant giraffes wearing top hats, and what was described as “a bicycle representation of the Queen's favourite horses" proved especially perplexing.

Chris Eubank and Sir Cliff Richard during the Platinum Jubilee pageant. Picture: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

A half later, Ed Sheeran took to the stage, though in truth, he was only the support man. Soon after, the Queen appeared to rapturous cheers. Not everything went to plan. The Red Arrows cancelled their flypast due to the weather conditions. But when there was so much else going on, it was barely noticeable.

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Of course, the tone of the day felt joyful in London, but it would have been scarcely recognisable to many in Scotland, where the festivities were markedly muted.

Perhaps the spectacle amounted to a form of hysteria that betrayed a sense of anxiety and denial. With the Queen now aged 96, the symbolism of her absence at several of the weekend’s events was a reminder that hard truths cannot be ignored indefinitely.

When the circus is over and the marmalade sandwiches are all eaten, what next? Such questions will be asked. For the moment, however, the pageant offered wellwishers an opportunity to reaffirm their affections for the Queen and all she represents.

Timmy Mallett takes part in the Platinum Jubilee pageant. Picture: Hannah McKay/WPA Pool/Getty

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Prince George watches on during the pageant. Picture: Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror/PA Wire
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