Wills, Kate to join jubilee river barge

2012-05-17 20:28

London - Prince William and his wife Catherine will sail with Queen Elizabeth II on her royal barge as it leads a huge flotilla down London's River Thames for her diamond jubilee, officials said on Thursday.

The young royals, credited with breathing new life into a monarchy previously seen as out of touch and beset by scandals, will add extra star power to one of the key events of a four-day jubilee holiday.

The royal household said the couple, officially known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will already be on the barge to meet the 86-year-old monarch when she boards the vessel at a pier in west London on 2 June.

As well as William and Kate, who wed last year in a ceremony watched by two billion television viewers, the vessel will also carry William's brother Prince Harry, the queen's husband Prince Philip, William's father Prince Charles and his wife Camilla.

1 000 vessels

The more than 11km long jubilee river procession on 2 June will be "one of the largest flotillas ever assembled on the river", organisers said, featuring 1 000 vessels ranging from small pleasure boats to military ships.

Organisers hope that up to one million spectators will line the banks of the Thames to watch the pageant from 14:30 as part of four days of celebrations for the queen's 60 years on the throne.

In new details announced on Thursday, they said a floating belfry with specially cast bells will head the procession, while a luxury cruiser called the Spirit of Chartwell is undergoing a lavish makeover to become the royal barge.

At its prow will be a gilded sculpture of the Neptune-like Old Father Thames with classical dolphins, while the royal coat of arms will be formed from more than 500 000 gold-coloured buttons on a red velvet banner.

Other ships, carrying a total of about 20 000 people, will include historic vessels, fireboats, tugs, herring drifters and eel barges, vessels that rescued British troops from Dunkirk during World War II.

There will also be 265 rowed boats, with one crewed by Olympic gold medallists.

James Bond theme

The London Philharmonic Orchestra will play pieces relevant to the places its own barge passes, so as it approaches the headquarters of MI6, Britain's external intelligence agency, it will strike up the James Bond theme.

Jazz trumpeter Guy Barker will lead a group performing Beatles songs, while other ensembles on ten music barges will play Scottish and English folk tunes, Bollywood numbers and military marches.

Some 5 500 police officers will be on duty along with 7 000 stewards.

The four days of celebrations will also include the lighting of over 2 000 beacons across the Commonwealth, a "Big Lunch" with street parties around Britain, and a service of thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral.