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Elizabeth barges down the Thames for Diamond Jubilee

The pageantry for Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee included a royal barge trip down the Thames today and hundreds of thousands cheering her on from the banks.

Queen Elizabeth II sails beneath the Tower Bridge in London for her Diamond Jubilee on June 3.

Toby Melville/Reuters

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At the head of a 1,000-ship flotilla, Queen Elizabeth traveled by royal barge down the Thames on Sunday, launching a summer of pomp and spectacle here that includes the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games.

Hundreds of thousands braved the rain on river banks and bridges as Elizabeth – celebrating her 60th year on the throne – waved from her vessel, the Gloriana. Two Olympic oarsmen helped row her red and gold-leaf barge seven miles from Chelsea Pier to Tower Bridge.

The Olympians were a reminder that the show-boating in London has only just begun, with the 2012 Games opening here next month. The grandeur befits a city at the center of global trade and finance, with Elizabeth harkening back to traditions of English naval power. But it also contrasts with Britain’s double-dip recession, deep government spending cuts, and a half-century ethos here of self-deprecation.

Some Londoners welcome the showcases as an expression of endurance and a chance for celebration even amid hard times.

“It is a very depressing time at the moment if you listen to news and watch TV, it’s all doom and gloom. It gives people a chance to celebrate and come together,” says Brenda Simpson, a retiree who waited six hours with her husband and sister on the banks for a view.


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