The Queen has symbolically led the lighting of the principal Platinum Jubilee beacon in a spectacular end to the first day of historic national commemorations celebrating her 70-year-reign.
The monarch’s late-night appearance at Windsor Castle rounded off the start to joyful festivities which saw the Queen take to the Buckingham Palace balcony surrounded by her family.
But it was also announced the head of state would miss a national service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Friday after experiencing “discomfort” during Thursday’s events.
In a statement, Buckingham Palace said the Queen “greatly enjoyed” her Trooping birthday parade, but taking into account the journey and activity required to participate, she had reluctantly decided not to attend the service the next day.
Hours later, she rallied as planned to take part in a special dual beacon-lighting ceremony with the Duke of Cambridge.
William watched his grandmother on a large screen in front of Buckingham Palace, while the Queen triggered the lighting of the principal beacon – a 69ft tall Tree of Trees sculpture outside her London residence – from Windsor.
The Queen touched the Commonwealth of Nations Globe to start the lighting of the main beacon 22 miles away.
Lights chased along the Quadrangle towards Windsor’s famous Round Tower, before travelling up the 21-metre Tree of Trees, made up of 350 saplings, illuminating the sculpture which towered above the palace, watched by William.
The palace beacon was one of more than 3,500 around the UK and the Commonwealth, including the Tower of London, Windsor Great Park, Hillsborough Castle, the Queen’s estates of Sandringham and Balmoral, and on top of the UK’s four highest peaks.
Flaming tributes were lit at towns and cities across Northern Ireland including at Titanic Belfast and St Columb’s Cathedral in Londonderry, while in Scotland, a beacon was set ablaze at Edinburgh Castle as a piper played.
Earlier in the day cheeky Prince Louis stole the show on the palace’s famous frontage as he covered his ears with his hands and let out a howl of excitement as a flypast roared overhead.
The four-year-old stood next to the Queen, known affectionately as “Gan Gan” to the Cambridge children, as she leaned down to talk to her great-grandson, pointing out things of interest
Thousands of well-wishers packed on to The Mall in the June sunshine, erupting in cheers for the nation’s longest reigning monarch, with the smiling Queen delighted at the patriotic scenes.
The Queen made two appearances on the palace balcony.
She joined her cousin the Duke of Kent to take a salute of her soldiers returning from Trooping the Colour, after the Prince of Wales deputised for her on the parade ground.
Then she re-emerged, wearing sunglasses, to watch the six-minute flypast of more than 70 aircraft, including 15 RAF Typhoons in the formation of the number 70.
Dressed in a dusky dove blue Angela Kelly coat which she wore for her official Jubilee portrait, and matching hat, the Queen, who has mobility issues, was holding a walking stick and wearing the Guards’ Badge on her coat.
Eighteen royals including the head of state stepped out for the flypast, with Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Louis flanking the monarch.
The crowds had been treated to the sight of the Cambridge youngsters waving in their first carriage procession, joined by proud parent Kate and their step-grandmother Camilla.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were among the guests who watched Trooping the Colour at Horse Guards from inside the Duke of Wellington’s former office, overlooking the parade ground.
They stayed out of the limelight and joined more than 30 royals including Camilla and Kate and the Queen’s extended family including all of her grandchildren.
But there was no place for the Sussexes, who caused a crisis by quitting as senior royals, or the Queen’s disgraced second son the Duke of York on the palace balcony.
The Queen decided to limit it to working members of the family, her Cambridge great-grandchildren and two youngest grandchildren.
As the four days of celebrations continue, Andrew is to also miss Friday’s service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s after catching Covid.
On the balcony with the Queen were: the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Princess Alexandra, the Duke of Kent, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, the Princess Royal, Charles and Camilla, the Cambridges, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and their children Viscount Severn and Lady Louise Windsor.