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Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebration ends in royal style
Updated 6/5/2012 2:09 PM ET
LONDON — Happy and glorious and soaked, Britain today concluded its four-day celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee with the roar of cannons, the roar of jets and the jubilant roars of a crowd of more than a million adoring Brits cheering themselves hoarse and madly waving flags.

It was an impressive spectacle that left many in the crowd weeping with joy and pride (or maybe it was the rain). President Obama sent a video message to the queen congratulating her on behalf of the American people. "May the light of your majesty's crown continue to reign supreme for many years to come," Obama said.

The queen demonstrated just why she is so beloved after 60 years on the throne when she carried on calmly with a full day of ceremonies despite ghastly weather and despite worry about her husband of 65 years, Prince Philip, who remained in the hospital battling a sudden infection. (Prince Edward made a brief visit to the hospital today and told reporters that his father was getting better.)

PHOTOS: Scenes from the Diamond Jubilee celebrations STORY: Pop royalty reigns at Jubilee concert MORE: Follow reporter Maria Puente on Twitter live from London

The poignant pictures beamed to the world showed the queen, small and a little stooped, walking slowly up a cathedral aisle, alone. No one could say the woman doesn't have guts, and stamina at age 86.

When it came time to return to Buckingham Palace after a morning church service and a pair of receptions and luncheons in Westminster, the queen could have taken a covered carriage to protect her from the cold wind and rain. Instead, she rode in the open 1902 State Landau, waving and smiling to the huge crowd that lined the long stretch of London's ceremonial way, The Mall, as rank after rank of mounted guardsmen in Gilbert & Sullivan uniforms trotted ahead and behind her carriage.

Instead of her husband, she was joined in the carriage by her heir, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who sat next to the queen in a very public display of the monarch's support for her son's second wife and the next queen consort.

Behind them, a second open carriage carried Prince William and his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (in a cream lace dress and veiled pillbox hat), the future heirs, and Prince Harry, the "spare." Both princes wore top hats.

By the time the carriages entered the plaza around the Queen Victoria Memorial in front the palace, the crowd was wet but undeterred, shouting and waving and hip-hip-hooraying to beat the band.

Soon the queen, Charles, Camilla, the princes and Catherine appeared on the balcony to acknowledge the roar of the crowd and to watch the fly-past of three waves of aircraft, the final one by jets trailing red, white and blue smoke. The queen, wearing a minty green hat and coat heavily embellished and with a scarf draping down her back, pointed her gloved hand above to the skies and smiled at the crowd, eliciting cheers from people watching her below or on the jumbo screens.

It was a day for the British to express their affection for their queen in the way they know best — with ruffles and flourishes and many, many horses. It was also a way for the queen to remind her subjects that the future of the monarchy is secure with her son and grandsons.

The royals spent most of the day indoors and out of the rain, inside the magnificent St. Paul's Cathedral and other ancient buildings where receptions and lunch took place. Not so for the crowd, many of whom had been sitting on The Mall all night or in the bleachers in the plaza since 7 a.m. But they were prepared, stocked up with rain ponchos, umbrellas and snacks, and a zillion Union Jacks.

At the morning church service, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, lead prelate of the Church of England of which the queen is supreme head, recited prayers thanking God "for Elizabeth our beloved and glorious queen."

"I don't think it's at all fanciful to say that, in all her public engagements, our queen has shown a quality of joy in the happiness of others," Williams said.

While the crowds waited, the various elaborately uniformed palace guards did their thing, marching back and forth and up and down, trotting on horses, playing in the band or trotting on horses AND playing in the band. All of it was part of their regular duties standing honor guard for the queen and preparing for her return, but they're very entertaining and the crowd loved watching them go through their movements.

Meanwhile, in the distance, cannon fire boomed from Horse Guards Parade, a 60-gun salute. Soon the sound of aircraft, glimpsed through the gray mist in the skies to the east, was heard overhead. Later, there was a Feu de Joie beneath the palace balcony, the celebratory cascade of rifle fire salute by the Queen's Guard as the band played God Save the Queen for the umpteenth time of the four-day weekend.

Aside from Prince Philip's absence, hardly anything went wrong: One horse somehow got away and had to be chased down. And the scarlet-coated guards in the bearskin hats messed up their spacing and had to scoot sideways in that peculiar movement they use, to the delight of the crowd.

The most impressive moment: The Mall Movement. Hundreds of London police lined up behind ranks of mounted troops in front of the multitudes on The Mall and slowly marched forward into the plaza and around the memorial to the front gates of the palace. The crowd surged behind them but there was no pushing and shoving; the British are nothing if not polite and this is a familiar crowd-control strategy used at every major royal event, including last year's royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

In the evening, the queen addressed the nation and the Commonwealth in a rare broadcast (the queen usually broadcasts only once a year at Christmas) to thank her subjects for a successful jubilee.

In a reflection of her basic modesty, the queen said the jubilee was a "humbling experience" and that she and her husband are deeply touched by the outpouring of affection shown. Standing with a portrait of Will and Kate on their wedding day on the table beside her, she thanked her subjects for all the effort that went into planning the jubilee (nearly three years' work). "I hope the memories of all the year's happy events brighten our lives for many years to come," she said. "For all the many kindnesses you have shown me in this country and throughout the Commonwealth, I thank you all."

Posted 6/5/2012 5:54 AM ET
Updated 6/5/2012 2:09 PM ET
Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the finale of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
WPA Pool, Getty Images
Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the finale of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

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