The Royal Marines Band played the national anthem, “God Save the Queen”, with the crowd singing along as the Queen watched the vast crowd stretching as far as the eye could see.
The Queen was last seen in public on Thursday, the first day of celebrations for her record-breaking Platinum Jubilee. After the appearance, also on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, the palace released a statement saying the Queen was stepping back from certain events after experiencing “some discomfort”. She returned to Windsor Castle, which is now her main base.
As the long Jubilee weekend drew to a close, the Queen sent a message of thanks.
In a statement from the Palace, sung by Elizabeth R., the Queen said: “When it comes to marking seventy years as your Queen, there is no guide to follow. It really is a first. But I was touched and deeply touched that so many people took to the streets to celebrate my platinum jubilee.
“While I may not have attended every event in person, my heart is with you all; and I remain committed to serving you to the best of my abilities, supported by my family.
“I have been inspired by the kindness, joy and relatedness that has been so evident in recent days, and I hope that this renewed sense of togetherness will be felt for many years to come.”
The Queen’s appearance on Sunday was unplanned. 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 flown above Buckingham Palace in the afternoon.
The palace had said there would be a ‘surprise’ on the final day, but it was unclear whether it would be an appearance by the 96-year-old British monarch, who has retired from other events.
She still managed to be the star of a concert at the Palace on Saturday night, where she performed 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 meandered through the streets and included the Gold State Coach, an elaborate carriage that requires eight horses to pull it, and even then they move at a walking pace. Images of the Queen were projected onto her windows, so it looked like she was sitting in the car.
Harry and Meghan, the Duke of Duchess of Sussex, did not appear alongside other members of the Royal Family taking part in the festivities on Sunday. They kept a low profile over the Jubilee long weekend, making just one public appearance at a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people turned out for weekend street parties for the ‘Big Jubilee Lunch’, some of which ended early because of, well, the UK weather. Street parties, a tradition that began after World War I, are a staple at major royal occasions.
Buckingham Palace said more than 85,000 people had registered to host the Big Jubilee Lunches, with Prince Charles and Camilla putting the bag of food at the London Oval cricket ground.
In one of them in south-west London, there was a lot of bonhomie as neighbors took part in a baking competition. There was no sign of the Platinum Pudding – the official dessert of the occasion, which requires five hours to prepare – but there was face paint and street badminton. A local fire truck appeared and the firefighters helped the youngsters hose down other children, delighting everyone.
Watching the scene, Kwame Gyamfi, 43, a mechanical design engineer, said the street parties, which don’t happen so often, “are necessary to bring people together. People have been locked up for almost two years,” he said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.
In Colchester, a town in south-east England founded by the Romans, there was a lot of celebration – partly because as one of England’s oldest ‘towns’, it received the “city” status to mark the jubilee (meaning more funds for city coffers).
Lin Gildea, a retired school principal who hosted one of the big lunches, smiled with quiet satisfaction as neighbors brought in plates of poppy seed cake, Victoria Sponge, Chelsea Buns – and cans of beer , bottles of champagne and pots of good tea.
And the food kept coming – until the tables were groaning.
Gildea thought the Big Lunch was just one more gift from the monarch – a chance for people to rejoice – and talk about property values and commute times.
“I’m not a massive royalist, but this queen is one in a million,” she said.