A visitor’s guide to the Diamond Jubilee
At 10:30 pm at Buckingham Palace, the Queen will light the national beacon by putting a diamond-shaped piece of glass in a pod, which will activate a laser and turn on a beacon at the far end of the Mall, the tree-lined avenue running from the palace to Trafalgar Square (visitors should arrive at the Mall several hours in advance to get a viewing spot). Other beacons will be lit at locations across the United Kingdom, and the chain of beacon lightings will continue through the night, onward to Canada, with at least four beacons in the US, including one outside the British Embassy in Washington, DC. Beacon lighting is a centuries-old British tradition that was first invented as a tool of military communication and that later was adopted to celebrate national events, such as Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.
The best opportunity to glimpse the royal family during the weekend is on 5 June, when the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and other family members take a carriage procession between Westminster Hall and Buckingham Palace, passing by Trafalgar Square on the way. Queen Elizabeth will ride in the 1902 State Landau, an open-topped, horse-drawn carriage, surrounded by the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, whose shiny breastplates and plumed metal helmets look positively medieval. Shortly after their arrival, the Royal Family will appear on the palace’s balcony. There will be a 60-gun salute and Royal Air Force flypast.
Crown jewels in a fresh light
This spring, the Tower of London gave a full makeover to its permanent exhibition of the Crown Jewels: the ornaments used by the sovereign on special state occasions. New displays focus on the 1953 coronation ceremony, including a freshly restored, three-minute colour film of the event. Visitors can also see the very items that were used in the ceremony, such as a Roman-style robe, solid gold crown and diamond-topped sceptre.
Tours and exhibitions
Several Jubilee-themed guided tours and museum exhibitions are taking place in London for a limited time. On Mondays in May and June, London Walks is running a two-and-a-half-hour Queen’s Jubilee walking tour, which tells Queen Elizabeth’s life story in cute anecdotes, such as how she was known as Lilibet when she was young. Stops include the Queen’s favourite shops in Mayfair, like the chocolatier Charbonnel et Walker.
Meanwhile, the National Portrait Gallery curated its 60 best images of Queen Elizabeth for the exhibition, The Queen: Art and Image, which runs through 21 October. The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has created a Royal River exhibition that is open until 9 September and recounts past national celebrations on the Thames with the help of evocative artworks and objects, such as Canaletto’s 1752 oil painting of the Lord Mayor’s river pageant.