LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II said she felt “humbled” after she delighted crowds on Sunday with a surprise appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, closing out the celebrations on the final day of her jubilee.
The Royal Marines Band played the national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” with the crowd singing along while the queen looked out at the vast throng, stretching as far as the eye could see.
The queen was last seen in public on Thursday, the first day of celebrations during her record-breaking Platinum Jubilee. After that appearance, also on the Buckingham Palace balcony, the palace issued a statement saying that the queen was pulling out of some events after experiencing “some discomfort.” She returned to Windsor Castle, which is now her main base.
As the jubilee long weekend came to a close, the queen sent a message of thanks.
In a statement from the palace, singed Elizabeth R., the queen said: “When it comes to how to mark seventy years as your Queen, there is no guidebook to follow. It really is a first. But I have been humbled and deeply touched that so many people have taken to the streets to celebrate my Platinum Jubilee.
“While I may not have attended every event in person, my heart has been with you all; and I remain committed to serving you to the best of my ability, supported by my family.
“I have been inspired by the kindness, joy and kinship that has been so evident in recent days, and I hope this renewed sense of togetherness will be felt for many years to come.”
The queen’s Sunday appearance wasn’t scheduled. But eagle-eyed royal fans at the palace on the final day of the four-day celebration noticed that the Royal Standard flag, flown only when the monarch is in residence, was hoisted up above Buckingham Palace in the afternoon.
The palace had said there was going to be a “surprise” on the last day, but it was unclear if that would be an appearance by Britain’s 96-year-old monarch, who pulled out of other events.
She still managed to be the star of a concert at the palace on Saturday night, where she featured in a filmed sketch with Paddington Bear.
Crowds had gathered at the palace and nearby streets on Sunday for the Jubilee Pageant, a carnival that snaked through the streets and included the Gold State Coach, an elaborate carriage that requires eight horses to pull it along, and even then they move at a walking pace. Footage of the queen was projected onto its windows, so it appeared as if she was sitting in the carriage.
Harry and Meghan, the Duke of Duchess of Sussex, did not appear alongside other royals taking in the festivities on Sunday. They kept a low profile during the jubilee long weekend, making only one public appearance during a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands took part in street parties on the weekend for the “Big Jubilee Lunch,” some of which ended early because of, well, British weather. Street parties, a tradition that started after World War I, are a fixture during major royal occasions.
Buckingham Palace said more than 85,000 people had signed up to host Big Jubilee Lunches, with Prince Charles and Camilla putting on the feed bag at the Oval Cricket Ground in London.
At one in southwest London, there was much bonhomie as neighbors took part in a cake-baking competition. There was no sign of the Platinum Pudding — the occasion’s official dessert, which requires five hours of prep time — but there was face painting and some street badminton. A local firetruck appeared and firefighters helped youngsters hose down other children, delighting all.
Looking on at the scene, Kwame Gyamfi, 43, a mechanical design engineer, said that the street parties, which don’t come around that often, “are needed to bring people together. People have been locked up for near enough two years,” he said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.
In Colchester, a city in southeast England founded by the Romans, there was much partying — in part because as one of the oldest “towns” in England, it was awarded “city” status to mark the jubilee (meaning more funds for city coffers).
Lin Gildea, a retired head teacher who organized one of the Big Lunches, smiled with quiet satisfaction as neighbors brought forth plates of Poppy Cake, Victoria Sponge, Chelsea Buns — and cans of beer, bottles of bubbly and pots of proper tea.
And the food kept coming — until the tables groaned.
Gildea thought the Big Lunch was just one more gift from the monarch — a chance for the people to make merry — and talk real estate values and commute times.
“I’m not a massive royalist, but this queen is one in a million,” she said.