Platinum jubilee: London's Elizabeth St leads national street parties

British and foreign tourists expected to descend on UK capital for a four-day bank holiday weekend

Union Jack flags hang over Elizabeth Street during Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.  Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

It bears the name of the monarch and is a stone's throw from the walls of Buckingham Palace. So it was only natural that Elizabeth Street in central London would go all out to mark the occasion when the British queen reaches the milestone of 70 years on the throne.

The thoroughfare, dotted with elegant shops and restaurants, will be en fete for a day with a flamboyant display of admiration for its namesake, Queen Elizabeth II, to mark her platinum jubilee.

Nestled in the affluent district of Belgravia and three blocks west of the royal headquarters at Buckingham Palace, Elizabeth Street's residents and businesses are gearing up to mark the jubilee with a street party.

The festivities scheduled for Sunday, June 5 will be part of nationwide celebrations to hail the landmark reached by the only British monarch to reign for seven decades.

After the terraced row has been decked out in Union flags and with trestle tables laid out for guests, a horse-drawn carriage will roll in to offer free rides to locals and visitors. A 1950s bus will be on display, a nod to the era during which the monarch ascended the throne, when she was 25, while younger guests will be entertained with a puppet show and face painting.

Angela Hay, chairwoman of the Belgravia Traders’ Association and organiser of the event, said the party, which will run from 11am to 5.30pm, will be a chance for locals and visitors to come together to celebrate the occasion in style. In recent decades, areas such as Camden and Shoreditch in north London set the trends in the city but the area leaders see this as a chance for a display of class.

“We’re going quite traditional,” Ms Hay told The National. “We didn’t want to do some sort of edgy, Shoreditch-style event, because that’s not Belgravia.

“We’re the nearest street party to Buckingham Palace. I think it’s hugely significant Elizabeth Street, which is the heart of Belgravia, is named after the queen.

“There is something for everybody. It’s open to all, everyone is invited. There are things going on at Buckingham Palace and we’re a five-minute walk away … come down and partake of the atmosphere here as well.

A group of Chelsea Pensioners — former British Army soldiers — will be on hand to join people in singing the national anthem, played by a brass band, at 1.45pm.

Eccleston Yards will host a pop-up food court, including a barbecue where dishes will be served with napkins printed with local schoolchildren’s jubilee-themed artwork.

Hatters head the party

Businesses along Elizabeth Street will have their shop fronts bedecked in royal regalia. The stretch is home to a string of household names including renowned interior designer Joanna Wood and Philip Treacy, the Irish milliner whose creations have become synonymous with royal ladies’ headwear.

His hats have been worn by the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.

As a tribute to the queen's late father, King George VI, Mr Treacy and his staff will decorate the shop window with antique ribbons originally used to celebrate the 1937 coronation of the former monarch.

The blue, white and red-striped ribbons were used to carry the King George Coronation Medal, which was distributed to thousands of citizens.

The well-known hatmaker said tourists “from all over the planet” visit Elizabeth Street for a taste of its uniqueness.

“It is the most beautiful street in London and people have always been attracted to Elizabeth Street,” he told The National.

“I am one of three milliners on Elizabeth Street, which has had milliners since the 1900s.

“We attract a lot of foreigners and our little shop is becoming one of London’s little attractions.

“Our store will be festooned in vintage coronation ribbons. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience in honour of her majesty the queen.”

Local resident Themis, 50, said having lived in Belgravia for 20 years, he often forgets just how significant the area is for tourists and fans of the royal family.

His admiration for the British monarchy dates back to a first-hand encounter he had with the Queen Mother in 1957 when she visited The King’s School in Canterbury, Kent, when he was a 15-year-old pupil.

“I met the Queen Mother and it was special,” he said.

He plans to attend his local street party if he and his family end up staying in London for the weekend instead of travelling to their second home in Oxfordshire.

“It’s amazing,” he said of the queen’s historical reign. “She seems like she’s on some special juice. I am hoping to attend the party if I’m here for it.”

Another local man, Jonathan, said he plans to travel to Spain for the long weekend and partake in the royal celebrations at a jubilee party.

“I am getting out of here because it’s too busy,” he said. “I like living here but there’s always too much traffic when these things happen.”

Royalist redoubt

His friend James said he too would be marking the historic occasion well away from the crowds of London.

“I swore allegiance to the queen and served in the army for 26 years,” said the veteran of the British Army. “I am a royalist and I will be having a drink to celebrate the jubilee.”

The events offer people a chance to take part in an occasion unlikely to be repeated, Ms Hay said. “I hope it makes them remember the occasion because I think those big historical events are wonderful to look back on and remember,” she said. “I hope they remember having a lovely day in a lovely place. We want them to see the best of what London can be — I think Belgravia is very much part of that.”

The gathering, sponsored by Grosvenor Estates, the Cleveland Clinic and the Peninsula Hotel, will be only one of thousands of parties across the UK on June 5 as part of The Big Jubilee Lunch celebrations.

Seventy years on from the monarch’s ascension, many of the older generations still recall the exuberant street parties they attended, and where they watched the coronation on black-and-white TV.

“I don’t think anyone who is alive today will in this country see another monarch who stays for 70 years,” Ms Hay said. “It’s extremely doubtful [because] it’s a very unusual thing. She became queen when she was very young and it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen to anyone for a very long time now. So anyone walking around the UK now, this is it, the only time you’ll get to celebrate 70 years of a monarch.”

Millions of people in Britain and the Commonwealth will celebrate the monarch’s historic reign during four official days of celebration from June 2 to June 5.

The queen, who has appeared in public displaying mobility issues in recent months, will be joined by senior members of the royal family on the Buckingham Palace balcony at Trooping the Colour on Thursday, June 2. The annual queen’s birthday procession at Horse Guards Parade will feature more than 1,400 soldiers and 200 horses.

The palace last week announced that Prince Harry, Meghan and Prince Andrew will not be present on the balcony, although they are expected to join in celebrations behind the scenes. All three are no longer classed as working members of Britain's royal family.

A service of thanksgiving for the queen’s reign will take place on Friday, June 3 at St Paul’s Cathedral in central London, where 400 musicians will perform.

The following day the monarch and family members will attend the Derby at Epsom Downs Racecourse. Later that day famous musicians from around the world will play at Buckingham Palace in an event attended by thousands of spectators.

The celebrations culminate on Sunday, June 5 when a day of festivities includes nationwide The Big Jubilee Lunch in cities, towns and villages across Britain.

Kensington and Chelsea Council in west London will host a tea party for over 50s on June 5, as well as a series of street parties for people of all ages.

A collection of locally produced artwork celebrating significant events from the past 70 years will go on display at the Civic Gallery at Kensington Town Hall. Restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels in the borough will add jubilee-themed dishes to their menu for the weekend, capitalising on the four-day holiday that is expected to draw tourists from around the world.

London’s Mayfair district will host a two-day summer fete on June 2 and June 3 to toast the queen’s milestone.

North Audley Street, from Grosvenor Square to Oxford Street, will be closed to traffic to make way for a spectacular 60-metre banqueting table adorned with greenery and flowers, including the celebrated Queen Elizabeth rose. Revellers will have the chance to sample dishes from some of the district’s hottest venues, including creations from The Beaumont Hotel, Mercato Mayfair and The Biltmore Hotel.

Debbie Lee, interim executive director of London Estate, said: “We are beyond excited to deliver this event in our neighbourhood, which promises to showcase the immensity of what Mayfair has to offer, both to its own community and visitors from all over the world.

“After two years of hardship, we’re ready to celebrate the best of the summer, coming together as one to honour the long reign of our remarkable monarch.”

Updated: May 27, 2022, 6:19 PM