A version of this story appeared in the September 24 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on the royal family, what they are up to in public and what’s happening behind palace walls. Sign up here.
It’s been a gloriously sunny week here in London and we had the pleasure of heading to Buckingham Palace to find out how plans to mark the Queen’s 70 years on the throne are coming along. As you might expect, organizers are pulling out all the stops for the celebrations to honor the sovereign’s seven decades of service in 2022.
While the Queen technically ascended the throne on February 6, 1952, the first major event next year will actually take place in May and is set to celebrate one of her greatest passions – her love of horses.
A four-day equestrian extravaganza will be held in the private grounds of Windsor Castle from May 12. Viewed by organizers as a warm-up act to the main holiday weekend in June, 500 horses – including some of the Queen’s own ponies – as well as 1,000 dancers, musicians and members of the armed forces will perform in a 90-minute show for an audience of over 4,000 members of the public each night (Covid measures permitting). Tickets for the production went on sale on Wednesday, with proceeds going to various charities.
A company of actors known as the Queen’s Players will lead the theatrical spectacle, envisioned as a “gallop through history,” from the reign of Elizabeth I to the current second Elizabethan era. “There is a really good bookending there between two of our great female monarchs,” said Simon Brooks-Ward, the show’s producer and director, at a special launch event at the Royal Mews, a working stables at Buckingham Palace.
He explained that the performance also takes in the “colorful characters that populated our past, celebrates our achievements through our people and what we’ve done in the past.” He added: “After two years that we’ve had it’s going to be lighthearted (and) joyful, but actually also traditional and respectful.”
It will also feature visiting performers from Oman, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, France, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, the Caribbean and India. The latter country will also be celebrating 75 years of independence in 2022 – so we’ve been told to expect “a big Bollywood number.”
We also found out that things don’t always go to plan, according to Brooks-Ward, who regaled us with tales of mishaps from previous celebrations he was involved with over the past two decades. For example, there was the time when a Polynesian band was left without instruments to rehearse with, after customs confiscated them because the group had stuffed fruit “down the trombones and other things.”
Then there was the time a vaulting athlete landed with a “splat,” sparking concern among the audience (don’t worry – he was checked by medical crews, who determined he was just winded). Or the “biblical deluge” in 2002 that threatened to overflow a canopy over the Royal Box, under which the Earl and Countess of Wessex were seated. In that instance, some quick-thinking staff brought “what can only be described as the poo and pee sucker from the outside” bathrooms, which helped pump away the rainwater and avoid a complete disaster. “We’ve had some fun over the years,” Brooks-Ward said.
The final night of the event will also be broadcast live by British TV station ITV. Then in June, there will be a four-day holiday weekend with a program of events including a parade, street parties and a concert at Buckingham Palace.
Mike Rake, the chairman of the Platinum Jubilee’s advisory committee, told CNN that the celebrations in May will showcase the “enormous respect that the Queen has for hundreds of million people in the Commonwealth around the world and how she’s really held the Commonwealth together in many ways, and how she stands at a very febrile time politically for the United Kingdom.”
He added: “The Queen stands as sort of a beacon of something that speaks to a United Kingdom, that speaks of service, that speaks of integrity. And I think that stands well with people in a very difficult time for the country and for the world.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Harry and Meghan hit the Big Apple!
Have you been missing the Sussexes while they’ve been on parental leave? Well, the wait to see them is finally over. They will be popping up on the Great Lawn in New York City’s Central Park on Saturday during the Global Citizen Live concert. The pair will be once again stressing the importance of vaccine equity around the world, having previously celebrated their son, Archie’s, birthday with a fundraising campaign and co-chaired the VAX LIVE concert in May. Their participation this weekend is just a small part of the 24-hour broadcast from around the world. Global Citizen is calling on the G7 group of nations and the European Union “to immediately share at least 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses with those most in need and support calls for a waiver on COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property rights.”
The duke and duchess arrived in the city a few days early and were seen visiting One World Trade Center Thursday, where they met with Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Bill de Blasio, before taking a short walk to the nearby 9/11 memorial. They also met with US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who called their meeting “wonderful” in a post on Twitter. The diplomat revealed the group held an “important discussion of COVID, racial justice, and raising mental health awareness.”
The pair also took a trip to World Health Organization offices, where they hosted a roundtable with world leaders, executives and public health officials, among others. “In this room, we had a number of the foremost leaders on public health, pandemic preparedness, scientific progress, and community building,” Harry and Meghan said in a statement sent to CNN. “Today’s meeting was a much-appreciated opportunity to learn from some of the most-respected experts who are working tirelessly to end this pandemic. Building on ongoing conversations we’ve had with global leaders over the past 18 months, today further reinforced our commitment to vaccine equity. We’re so encouraged by the spirit of collaboration we heard throughout our conversation and are eager to do our part.”
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
Prince Andrew has been served. What’s next?
The Duke of York was served with legal papers in the civil sexual assault suit brought by Virginia Roberts Giuffre this week. US court documents seen by CNN show the papers were sent to his lawyer, Andrew B. Brettler, in Los Angeles on Monday. His legal team have repeatedly denied the claims, and called the suit “baseless, non-viable (and) potentially unlawful.” Guiffre alleges that she was assaulted in London, New York and the US Virgin Islands by the royal, and that Andrew was aware she was 17 at the time and had been trafficked by the late sex offender Jeffery Epstein. The duke’s legal team now have 21 days to respond if they intend to engage with the suit. If they do, they can choose to submit an answer or apply for a motion to dismiss. If they do not engage with the case and submit to the jurisdiction of a US court, it would be up to a judge to determine if the case could proceed. And if it did continue, questions would be raised over the enforcement of any verdict without Andrew’s cooperation. Despite the immediate uncertainty ahead, it’s a step forward for Giuffre. Her lawyer, David Boies, told CNN on Tuesday that they were “pleased” the service issue had been resolved so that “we can proceed to a resolution of Ms. Giuffre’s claims.”
Kate catches up with Britain’s tennis superstars.
The Duchess of Cambridge headed to a homecoming celebration for Britain’s US Open Champions on Friday. Catherine, who is a well-known tennis fan and royal patron of The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, passed on her compliments to teen sensation Emma Raducanu as well as Joe Salisbury, Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid.
Princess Eugenie is one very excited auntie.
Happy news for the royal family this week with the arrival of Princess Beatrice’s baby girl at the weekend. Shortly after Buckingham Palace announced the birth, Beatrice’s sister, Eugenie, shared a heartfelt message on Instagram to her beloved sibling and new niece. First, she wished her “dearest BeaBea and Edo” her congratulations on the new addition to their family. The 31-year-old – who herself gave birth to her first child, August, earlier this year – added the pair will have “so much fun watching our children grow up.” In the second part of the note, she spoke directly to the new baby, writing: “I love you already and think you’re just awesome from the photos.. we’re going to have so much fun together.”
Royals attend Chelsea Flower Show.
Several members of the royal family descended upon the RHS Chelsea Flower Show as it prepared to open in London this week. Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, visited on Monday and were seen walking together through the gardens. Princess Anne, as well as the Queen’s cousins, the Duke of Gloucester and Princess Alexandra, also attended the first autumn showcase of the popular horticultural event. The event – which was canceled last year for the first time since World War II and moved online amid coronavirus – has been running for more than a century, since it was set up in 1913. The Queen, who is patron of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), normally makes an appearance but she remains at her Scottish residence in Balmoral. One of the displays the royals got a sneak preview of on Monday before the event opened to the public was the RHS Queen’s Green Canopy Garden, which was designed to “highlight the importance of trees and woodlands to the environment,” according to Buckingham Palace.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge on a boat trip on Lake Windermere in the Lake District National Park, northwest England, speaking with two former “Windermere Children,” a group of 300 child Holocaust survivors who came to stay in the area in 1945 to convalesce after experiencing the atrocities of Nazi concentration camps. “It was so powerful to hear how their time in the Lakes enjoying outdoor recreation, sport and art therapy, allowed them to be able to begin to rebuild their lives and eventually, their families here in the UK,” Kate wrote on Instagram.
All about Princess Diana.
The fascination with the late Princess of Wales is still going strong more than 24 years after her death. A new biopic, “Spencer” – starring Kristen Stewart as the late princess in a remarkable transformation – releases in early November in the US. And on October 10, CNN will premiere a six-part television series, “Diana.”
The CNN series will re-examine Diana’s life through the lens of modernity, drawing on a new generation of voices, including interviews from those close to her. And that’s not all: Longtime podcaster Aminatou Sow will host “When Diana Met…” – a limited series podcast from CNN Audio that revisits Diana’s most notable encounters with politicians, dignitaries and celebrities. That débuts on October 7.
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More than a dozen royal family members sat down for a special documentary film broadcast in the UK this week on BBC television. “Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers” saw all of the Duke of Edinburgh’s children as well as several of his grandchildren and other close family members share their fondest memories and reflections on the clan’s patriarch, who died in April.
The hour-long special was originally supposed to celebrate Philip’s 100th birthday, which would have been in June. In addition to the family candidly discussing the duke’s character, passions and life story, the film also featured footage from the Queen’s private collection and took viewers inside Buckingham Palace – including his study, private office and library – where staff recalled working with the longest-serving consort in royal history.