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“The Queen has greatly appreciated her anniversary parade today (Thursday) and the air parade but has felt some discomfort,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.

“Given the travel and activity required for the Thanksgiving Mass at St Paul’s Cathedral, Her Majesty has reluctantly concluded that she will not participate,” it added.

The announcement reignites concerns about the deteriorating health of the popular 96-year-old monarch, who has difficulty walking and whose official appearances have become increasingly rare since she spent a night in hospital in October.

On Thursday, dressed in a blue coat and hat, the monarch appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace smiling and standing next to her cousin, the Duke of Kent, colonel of the Scots Guards, while 1,500 soldiers, with musical bands and hundreds of horses, marched in the traditional “Parade of the Banner”.

Despite the announcement of her absence from the mass, Isabel also participated on Thursday night in the remote lighting of a huge sculpture, in front of Buckingham, which represents a 21-meter-high tree.

At the same time, more than 3,000 light signals were lit across the UK, including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, 40km from London, where the monarch lives.

Organized annually for 250 years to commemorate the official birthday of the British monarch -but canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic- this year coincided with the start of the four days of celebrations for the seven decades on the throne of Elizabeth II, crowned with only 25 years old.

“I hope that the coming days will be an opportunity to reflect on all that has been achieved over the past seventy years, as we look to the future with confidence and enthusiasm,” the queen said in a message released ahead of the celebrations.

– “A symbol that unites” –

Hundreds of thousands of people crowded around the palace, cordoned off with metal barriers and guarded by policemen in their characteristic domed helmets.

British flags were ubiquitous, offered by street vendors or emblazoned on pennants, balloons, jackets or caps worn by the crowd, in contrast to the morning suits and top hats worn by guests at the official ceremony.

“This queen is either hated or loved, but in the end she is a symbol that unites society,” Mexican Ana Ruiz, a 27-year-old medical graduate who lives in London, told AFP.

The 70 years of reign also deserved international congratulations. Pope Francis sent a message wishing the queen, her family and her people “unity, prosperity and peace.”

– Cannon salvos and light signals –

Until recently, Isabel II greeted the troops on horseback.

But this year, due to her mobility problems, she was replaced by her heir, Prince Charles, who at 73 is taking office in a progressive transition that raises doubts due to his lesser popularity at a time when the monarchy is criticized, especially all in the former colonies, due to the slave-owning past of the British Empire.

On the central esplanade of the “Horse Guards Parade”, near Downing Street, Carlos inspected the troops on behalf of the queen, accompanied by his son Guillermo, 39, and his sister Ana, 71. They were dressed in uniform of full dress and the two men wore the traditional tall black bear hair cap of the royal guard.

Other members of the royal family, including Charles and William’s wives, Camilla and Catherine, aged 74 and 40 respectively, arrived in carriages to witness the pompous parade, which traveled down The Mall to Buckingham Palace.

The event ended with some 70 air force planes, including the Red Arrows aerobatic patrol, flying over the palace and a second appearance by the queen to greet the crowd. She was flanked by leading members of the royal family, including William and Catherine’s three young children, the youngest of whom, 4-year-old Luis, delighted the audience with her demeanor.

Cannon volleys resounded in London and throughout the United Kingdom.

– Andrew, Henry and Meghan –

Avoiding controversy and tension in an event that seeks to improve the image of the monarchy, Prince Andrew, 62, the queen’s third son away from public life due to accusations of sexual assault against a minor in the United States, did not appear on the balcony. . He will also be absent from mass on Friday due to having covid-19.

Nor did Prince Harry, 37, and his wife, the former American actress Meghan Markle, go out on the balcony, who caused an earthquake in the monarchy when in 2020 she decided to distance herself and go to live in California, from where they have criticized the royal family.

They traveled to London to take part in the festivities but on Thursday they stayed away from the television cameras.

The celebrations will continue until Sunday with parades, horse races and concerts.

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