Setting the scene . . . It was a brisk, rainy, gray day, but spirits were high and the excitement was palpable. It’s been 300 years since a floatilla pageant of this magnitude has occurred. We took the train (20 minute ride) to Victoria Station in Central London and then walked to the Chelsea Bridge. We had special tickets to be on the West side of the Chelsea bridge (perfect viewing.) We arrived by 8:45 AM and secured prime front row seating in the center of the bridge! Our tickets included sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam and tea. When we say that no one does pageantry like the British, we mean it.
The procession on the Thames began at 2:45 PM with enormous bells on a barge heralding the the upcoming event. Then hundreds of boats, large and small, motored, pedaled, rowed, representing the many countries within the Commonwealth filled the river. They were met with cheers and flags. The the moment we had been waiting six hours on a rainy bridge arrived – heralded by royal fanfare trumpets – the Queen’s barge! Her Majesty, bedecked in a stunning white ensemble suit and hat looked regal, vital, and truly happy. Prince Phillip, Prince Charles, Prince Harry and the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, were in full military regalia. Prince Philip appeared spry, fit and very proud. Prince Charles was truly happy. Camilla wore a cream outfit with her curled hair peeking out beneath a very smart hat. The visual star was Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge in a magnificent red outfit with her signature fascinator style hat tilted to the right was a feather touch.
The pageant continued with bagpipes, yachts, barges and military boats. A very moving moment included the boats the rescued the sailors from Dunkirk. On board the boats were survivors and those who saved them.
The finale of the floatilla (4 hours later) included a concert of iconic British pieces performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It was exciting, whimsical and truly joyous.
Today we, Musique Sur La Mer, were witness to history in the making. Cold, wet and overtired – we enjoyed every moment.
But wait. . .there’s more to come. . .