It's been a gloriously sunny week here in London and we had the pleasure of heading to Buckingham Palace to find out how plans to mark the Queen's 70 years on the throne are coming along. As you might expect, organizers are pulling out all the stops for the celebrations to honor the sovereign's seven decades of service in 2022.
While the Queen technically ascended the throne on February 6, 1952, the first major event next year will actually take place in May and is set to celebrate one of her greatest passions -- her love of horses.
A four-day equestrian extravaganza will be held in the private grounds of Windsor Castle from May 12. Viewed by organizers as a warm-up act to the main holiday weekend in June, 500 horses -- including some of the Queen's own ponies -- as well as 1,000 dancers, musicians and members of the armed forces will perform in a 90-minute show for an audience of over 4,000 members of the public each night (Covid measures permitting). Tickets for the production went on sale on Wednesday, with proceeds going to various charities.
A company of actors known as the Queen's Players will lead the theatrical spectacle, envisioned as a "gallop through history," from the reign of Elizabeth I to the current second Elizabethan era. "There is a really good bookending there between two of our great female monarchs," said Simon Brooks-Ward, the show's producer and director, at a special launch event at the Royal Mews, a working stables at Buckingham Palace.
He explained that the performance also takes in the "colorful characters that populated our past, celebrates our achievements through our people and what we've done in the past." He added: "After two years that we've had it's going to be lighthearted (and) joyful, but actually also traditional and respectful."
It will also feature visiting performers from Oman, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, France, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, the Caribbean and India. The latter country will also be celebrating 75 years of independence in 2022 -- so we've been told to expect "a big Bollywood number."
We also found out that things don't always go to plan, according to Brooks-Ward, who regaled us with tales of mishaps from previous celebrations he was involved with over the past two decades. For example, there was the time when a Polynesian band was left without instruments to rehearse with, after customs confiscated them because the group had stuffed fruit "down the trombones and other things."
Then there was the time a vaulting athlete landed with a "splat," sparking concern among the audience (don't worry -- he was checked by medical crews, who determined he was just winded). Or the "biblical deluge" in 2002 that threatened to overflow a canopy over the Royal Box, under which the Earl and Countess of Wessex were seated.
In that instance, some quick-thinking staff brought "what can only be described as the poo and pee sucker from the outside" bathrooms, which helped pump away the rainwater and avoid a complete disaster. "We've had some fun over the years," Brooks-Ward said.
The final night of the event will also be broadcast live by British TV station ITV. Then in June, there will be a four-day holiday weekend with a program of events including a parade, street parties, and a concert at Buckingham Palace.
Mike Rake, the chairman of the Platinum Jubilee's advisory committee, told CNN that the celebrations in May will showcase the "enormous respect that the Queen has for hundreds of million people in the Commonwealth around the world and how she's really held the Commonwealth together in many ways, and how she stands at a very febrile time politically for the United Kingdom."
He added: "The Queen stands as sort of a beacon of something that speaks to the United Kingdom, that speaks of service, that speaks of integrity. And I think that stands well with people in a very difficult time for the country and for the world."