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Jubilee: The moment from the balcony tells the story of the British monarchy over the years

Jubilee: The moment from the balcony tells the story of the British monarchy over the years

LONDON (AP) — As a 9-year-old girl, Princess Elizabeth appeared with her family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to mark her grandfather George V’s Silver Jubilee, an excited smile on her face as as she gazed at the crowd below.

Well over a century later, the former princess – now 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth II – is set to take to the same balcony this week to smile and wave at millions celebrating her 70 years on the throne .

The balcony appearance is the centerpiece of nearly every royal celebration in Britain, a chance for the public to catch a glimpse of the family gathered for a big photo to mark weddings, coronations and jubilees. Every June, the extended Royal Family don their finest uniforms, hats and dresses and gather to mark the Queen’s birthday, celebrated with an extravagant military parade known as Trooping the Color and ending on the balcony just after the passage of the Royal Air Force.

Balcony images across the decades chronicle the changing faces of the monarchy and offer snapshots of many milestones in Elizabeth’s life. As a young woman, the Princess donned her military uniform and stood alongside Winston Churchill to celebrate the end of the Second World War in 1945.

Eight years later, she wore the Imperial State Crown and royal robes to greet a sea of ​​ecstatic subjects after her own coronation.

This Thursday, the family’s appearance on the Platinum Jubilee Balcony will be notable for those who will be absent. Palace officials announced earlier this month that “after careful consideration”, the Queen has decided that only working members of the Royal Family and their children will meet on the balcony.

This means Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who stepped away from frontline royal duties and moved to California in 2020, and their young children will be left out. So will Prince Andrew, who has been dishonored by a sex scandal and his ties to late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

“I think the decision to have only working royals on the balcony was very smart because it avoids any awkward situations,” said Emily Nash, royal editor at HELLO! magazine.

“People are watching the family dynamics to see if there are any tensions, and there would be a huge uproar, I think, if we saw Prince Andrew on the balcony. So that solves all of those issues in one fell swoop” , Nash added. “But the Palace has made it clear that Harry and Meghan remain much loved members of the family and will be here.”

Harry and Meghan, known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, said they would be flying to the UK with their two young children and were looking forward to joining the long weekend of festivities. The trip will be the family’s first visit to Harry’s home country, and any appearances they make at Jubilee events – including a service at St Paul’s Cathedral and a possible second Balcony Gathering on Sunday – will be closely monitored.

Andrew, meanwhile, will be kept out of the public eye after recently reaching a multi-million pound settlement with a woman who filed a complaint in the US accusing him of sexual assault at the age of 17 year. The Queen’s second son was stripped of his honorary military titles in January amid the scandal.

Some royal watchers say the limited balcony programming this Thursday is also in line with Prince Charles’ longstanding desire to shrink the monarchy.

The decision means the Queen will be joined on the balcony on Thursday by her 73-year-old heir, Charles, and his wife Camilla; Prince William, second in line to the throne, with his wife Kate and their three children; and Charles’ siblings, Princess Anne and Prince Edward, and their wives.

Several other less recognizable royals will join the group, including the Queen’s cousin, the Duke of Gloucester and his wife, as well as the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra.

While some past gatherings on the balcony have included large numbers of senior royals – including the Queen’s distant cousins ​​- the Diamond Jubilee celebration in 2012 saw the Queen accompanied by just five members close to the family: Charles, Camilla, William, Kate and Harry.

“He was making a point, he was saying – this is the future, folks,” said Robert Hardman, the monarch’s biographer and author of ‘Queen of Our Times: The Life of Elizabeth II’.

For this week, “it’s not about banning Andrew, Harry or Meghan from the balcony,” Hardman added. “They’ve stepped back from royal duties so they’re not part of the operational unit. That’s the whole story.”

The tradition of a balcony appearance began with Queen Victoria, who turned Buckingham Palace into the monarch’s official residence and home to the royal family in the 19th century. Victoria made the first appearance on the royal balcony during the celebrations marking the opening of the Great Exhibition of 1851.

It’s a symbolic moment when the crown and the people come together, said Ed Owens, royal historian and author of “The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public 1932-1953”.

“It was popularized as that moment when the nation came to admire the royal family,” Owens said.

It’s a formal occasion, though mischievous royal children often steal the scene. Harry, 3 years old and still in the arms of his mother Diana, made an impression by sticking his tongue out at photographers.

Royal watchers are hoping the Queen, who is struggling to get around now and has recently missed several major public engagements, will be in attendance for Thursday’s balcony time and at least one or two of the events scheduled for the four-weekend platinum jubilee days. But there are no promises.

“We can’t take anything for granted at this point – at the age of 96, you have good days and bad days,” said Majesty magazine editor Joe Little. “The palace is really taking it one day at a time.”

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Follow all AP stories about the British Royal Family at https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii

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