The official celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th jubilee have begun in London with the traditional “Trooping the Colour” parade. Heir to the throne Prince Charles inspected the military show at Horse Guards Parade on Thursday on behalf of his mother. At his side were his son Prince William and his sister Princess Anne.

In bright sunshine, more than 1,200 officers and soldiers marched in red dress uniforms and the famous bearskin hats, while hundreds of military musicians played in honor of the monarch. The 96-year-old, who was recently ill, followed the spectacle at nearby Buckingham Palace and later appeared on the balcony.

Other royals made the short journey from City Palace in carriages, including Charles and William’s wives, Duchess Camilla and Duchess Kate. Surprisingly, William’s younger brother Prince Harry and his wife Duchess Meghan were also invited. Because the couple is no longer officially performing for the palace, it was not expected that they would be seen together with other royals on Thursday.

“Trooping the Color” has been held since 1748 as a birthday parade for the head of state. The so-called Household Division, the royal bodyguard, marches in honor of the monarch. Every year the colors – the “Colours” – of one of the regiments are paraded, hence the name. This year the focus is on the Irish Guards 1st Battalion. Prince William, as royal patron (Colonel of the Regiment), recently handed over a new flag to the unit. The mascot of the Irish Guards, founded in 1900, is an Irish wolfhound, which also took part in the parade.

In addition, dozens of British Air Force aircraft have honored the Queen with a formation flight over Buckingham Palace. The Queen watched the “flypast” from Buckingham Palace with close family members including her sons Prince Charles and Prince Edward and grandson Prince William and their families by her side. More than 70 Royal Air Force helicopters and aircraft, including Apache helicopters and Typhoon fighter jets, flew in the skies over London for a total of six minutes on Thursday afternoon.

The Queen’s birthday is actually on April 21st. However, due to the generally better weather, she is sticking to the tradition established by her great-grandfather, King Edward VII, of holding the parade in a warmer month.

After the parade, the Queen wanted to follow a formation flight of the Luftwaffe over the City Palace from the balcony with her closest family members – but without Harry and Meghan and her second eldest son Prince Andrew. Afterwards, 82 and 124 gun salutes were planned in central London’s Hyde Park and in London’s Tower to honor the jubilee.

To see the Queen and the parade, numerous people had made their way to the lavishly decorated city center of London since Wednesday. At the Green Park underground station near Buckingham Palace, numerous Queen admirers with British flags and picnic baskets got off early in the morning. Along the boulevard The Mall, which leads to Buckingham Palace, dozens of die-hards camped despite the fresh temperatures. British flags were everywhere.

Some people had the “Union Jack” painted on their cheeks, others wore T-shirts with portraits of Queen Elizabeth II or masks of the 96-year-old monarch. The four-day festival is intended to bring the country together again after Brexit and the corona pandemic.

Shortly before the start of the military parade, at least four people disrupted the soldiers’ march. Three men ran onto The Mall boulevard and threw themselves on the ground in front of a military band on Thursday, TV broadcaster Sky News showed. Another man ran a few meters in front of the soldiers and held up a note. What was on it was initially unknown.

Police ran over and dragged away the troublemakers, one of whom wore a mock crown. The men were arrested. It was obvious that it was a protest by opponents of the monarchy, but the actual background was initially unclear.

Ahead of the celebrations, the royal family tweeted a message from the Queen and a new portrait taken by photographer Ranald Mackechnie. The photograph shows the Queen seated in front of a window in a room at Windsor Castle.

In her message, the Queen thanked everyone involved in organizing the anniversary celebrations. “I know that many happy memories are always made on such festive occasions,” it said.

“I continue to be inspired by the goodwill bestowed on me,” the Queen continued. “I hope that the coming days will provide an opportunity to look back on the achievements of the past 70 years as we look to the future with confidence and excitement.”

More celebrations will take place over a long weekend until Sunday. A street pageant, a kind of street carnival, is planned for Sunday in London. So that people can celebrate their queen properly, there is another non-working holiday once. In addition, pubs are allowed to open much longer.

Elizabeth has been King George VI since the death of her father. Queen of Britain on 6 February 1952. She was crowned on June 2, 1953.

A few records and numbers from Elizabeth II’s reign:

To kick off the celebrations, the palace also released a video of footage from the Queen’s early years.

The Queen remains extremely popular in the country. According to polling firm Yougov, 84 percent of people in Britain believe the Queen has done a very good or good job in her 70 years on the throne. However, support for the monarchy is waning among younger people. According to a Yougov poll, support among 18- to 24-year-olds has fallen from 59 percent to 33 percent since 2011.

Pope Francis congratulated Elizabeth II on the jubilee. “I send warm greetings and good wishes, along with renewed assurances of my prayers that Almighty God bestow blessings of unity, prosperity and peace on you, the members of the royal family and all the people of the country,” wrote the head of the Catholic Church in a telegram released by the Holy See on Thursday.