It’s finally here!
The four-day royal celebration that’s been buzzed about for months officially kicked off with plenty of pomp and circumstance Thursday morning as Queen Elizabeth II became the first British monarch to be honored with a Platinum Jubilee.
But what exactly is being celebrated and how is it being celebrated with four days of events?
Read on to learn the answer to those questions and other details about this historic event as it unfolds.
What is the Jubilee?
While any anniversary celebration can be labeled a jubilee, Britain began the formal tradition of celebrating a monarch’s time on the throne by marking King George III’s Golden Jubilee in 1809, just as he approached the 50th year of his reign.
What’s so special about this one?
The Platinum Jubilee recognizes a tremendous milestone for both Elizabeth and for Britain. This year is her 70th year on the throne. That is the longest reign for any British monarch. The closest any other has ever come to that impressive stretch was Queen Victoria, who, at age 81, had served as monarch for nearly 64 years when she died in 1901.
When is it?
The Platinum Jubilee began Thursday, June 2, and extends to Sunday, June 5. But given the rare nature of this milestone, a variety of celebrations around the theme of the Platinum Jubilee have taken place throughout 2022. See a schedule of events and where to watch them here.
How did Thursday's event commence?
The opening day started with the monarch's birthday parade, better known as Trooping the Color.
Though the queen turned 96 in April, this is the real birthday party, with more than 1,400 parading soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians gathered to take part in the procession.
But as royal watchers saw Thursday, the parade itself was also filled with familiar faces.
Members of the royal family filled the parade route, some on horseback, such as the queen's son Prince Charles and her daughter, Princess Anne, while others rode in horse-drawn carriages.
The queen usually plays a big role in Jubilee parades by riding in a royal carriage of her own before ending the procession on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
But that wasn't so this time.
Breaking with tradition, Elizabeth went straight to the balcony during the parade, marking her first public appearance since attending the Chelsea Flower Show in London on May 23.
Actually, she made two appearances on the balcony this year. The first was when she received a royal salute as troops marched past the palace, and the second, when she and other royal family members gathered together to watch the traditional flypast by the Royal Air Force.
Prince Louis, in particular, made headlines for his reactions to the parade. The four-year-old royal displayed a number of expressions to the pomp and circumstance — including clapping his hands over his ears.
After the day’s festivities, the evening holds more special moments as more than 1,500 beacons are set to be lit across the U.K., Channel Islands, Isle of Man, and capitals of the Commonwealth nations.
What else does the Jubilee have in store?
Trooping the Color is just the start.
On day two, a Service of Thanksgiving for the queen’s reign will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral. And on day three, there will be a Horse Derby at Epsom Downs in the morning.
And in the evening of the third day, a star-studded concert will take place at Buckingham Palace featuring Elton John, Queen + Adam Lambert, Diana Ross and other musical icons and celebrities.
Finally, on the last day, The Big Lunch takes place, wherein the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth nations throw their own midday parties to celebrate the queen.
It's all set to end with a Platinum Pageant held at Buckingham Palace.
Which of those events will the queen attend?
According to NBC News royal commentator Daisy McAndrew, the queen’s schedule remains unconfirmed.
“There are various moments throughout the next four days, from Thursday to Sunday, that we will be expecting to see the queen,” McAndrew said, noting that Buckingham Palace has remained “tightlipped” about her appearances.
“We will only get confirmation of what she’ll go to on the day," she explained.
Following two balcony appearances at Trooping the Color on Thursday, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the Queen would not attend the Thanksgiving Service on Friday.
In a statement, a spokesperson said, "The Queen greatly enjoyed today’s Birthday Parade and Flypast but did experience some discomfort.
“Taking into account the journey and activity required to participate in tomorrow’s National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, Her Majesty with great reluctance has concluded that she will not attend."
The Queen's son Prince Andrew also missed the ceremony as he tested positive for COVID.
The Queen will not attend the Derby on Saturday, either.
How is this Jubilee be different from past ones?
There’s been one constant at the queen’s past jubilees. Whether at her Silver (1977), Golden (2002), Diamond (2012) or Sapphire (2017) celebration, Elizabeth always had her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, by her side.
Following Philip’s death last April, at the age of 99, this is the first such celebration the queen has taken part in without him.
What does the queen have to say about all of it?
While the queen has been more reserved and out of sight in recent months due to health and mobility issues, back in December, during her annual Christmas Day message, she looked ahead at the Platinum Jubilee with excitement.
At that time she said that she hoped it would be "an opportunity for people everywhere to enjoy a sense of togetherness: a chance to give thanks for the enormous changes of the last seventy years — social, scientific and cultural — and also to look ahead with confidence.”