More than a million spectators converged on the Thames in central London to watch the diamond jubilee river pageant, despite worsening weather that forced the cancellation of a flypast finale.
As the Queen and other members of the royal family joined 20,000 participants in the 1,000-strong flotilla, millions of people across Britain joined in the celebrations at street parties, though many were hastily relocated indoors.
The Queen braved heavy rain without an umbrella, spending more than an hour aboard the lavishly decorated royal barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, waving to crowds packed into all available space along the seven-mile route. Organisers said that jubilee lunches had brought together an estimated six million people across the UK. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were surprise guests at the Big Jubilee Lunch in central London’s Piccadilly. David Cameron met scouts and girl guides at the Downing Street jubilee party before joining the Queen at the pageant.
Meanwhile Nick Clegg and his wife, Miriam González Durántez, popped into a street party in Totley, Sheffield, bringing a Victoria sponge. “We might not have the sun, but that hasn’t put people off getting in the spirit and having a great party,” the deputy prime minister said.
There were reports of chaos at the end of the pageant as boats in the flotilla queued up to land, with some said to have waited for more than an hour. The London Ambulance Service said 46 people off the boats had been treated for the effects of the cold weather, with six taken to hospital with symptoms of hypothermia.
Rail and underground stations in the capital were heavily congested. The Association of Train Operating Companies apologised for delays to some reaching central London. “Train companies have been running extra services today and adding carriages at the busiest times of the day to get people to and from the celebrations as quickly and easily as possible,” said a spokesman.
One of the longest street parties, with more than 3,700 seats, joined the villages of Goring in Oxfordshire and Streatley in Berkshire, across a bridge over the Thames. The biggest was believed to be in Greenwich, which attracted 10,000 people. Many in Wales were rained off, including a beach party in Rhosneigr, close to the Anglesey home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Jubilee events were held across the Commonwealth, and in the Arctic explorers from Devon held a tea party.
Earlier, the prime minister, in an interview with Andrew Marr, said the Queen brought a “sense of national unity and stability” and was “someone who the whole country can identify with. It doesn’t matter whether people are Labour or Conservative or Liberal Democrat, or can’t bear any politicians. There’s at the head of state someone who the whole country can revere and look up to – a great symbol of national unity, of continuity, that links British people with our institutions, with our history, with our relations with other countries, with the Commonwealth.”
Graham Smith, chief executive of the anti-monarchist campaign group Republic, said more than 1,200 protesters had gathered at two sites during the pageant. “We’re opposed to celebrating hereditary privilege and power. The message is to the millions of people who oppose the monarchy that there is a movement you can support. The whole country isn’t in love with the monarchy,” he said. Representatives of the group’s branches in Wales and Scotland, as well as a delegation from the Swedish republican movement joined the protest.