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jubilee celebrations

Queen Elizabeth II and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness shook hands for the first time

Queen Elizabeth II and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness shook hands for the first time

The last day of Queen Elizabeth’s two-day visit to Northern Ireland was marked by an historic handshake and a huge party.

Her Majesty and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness shook hands for the first time.

The meeting between the Queen and Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister took place at a charity event in Belfast on Wednesday morning.

In the afternoon she attended a Diamond Jubilee party attended by 20,000 in Stormont.

The Queen and Martin McGuinness shook hands at a private meeting and later shook hands in public.

The private meeting, in a room at the theatre, involved a group of seven people, including Irish President Michael D. Higgins and Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson.

It is understood Martin McGuinness welcomed both the Queen and the Irish president in Irish.


The deputy first minister is said to have commented on the Queen’s visit to Dublin last year, and in particular her comments regarding all the victims of the Troubles.

A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “He emphasized the need to acknowledge the pain of all victims of the conflict and their families.”

Sinn Fein said Martin McGuinness told the Queen that their meeting was a “powerful signal that peace-building requires leadership”.

Later, as the Queen left to continue her Diamond Jubilee tour of Northern Ireland, the pair shook hands again, this time in public.

As they shook hands for a second time, Martin McGuinness wished the Queen well in Irish, which translates as: “Goodbye and God bless.”

When asked how it was to meet the Queen, Martin McGuinness replied “very nice.”

The main event had been billed as one to celebrate the role of the arts in contributing to reconciliation and peace-building and not as part of the Jubilee celebrations.

President Michael D. Higgins said he and his wife, Sabina, had been delighted “to have the opportunity for a brief but very warm meeting” with the Queen.

He said it marked “another important step on the journey to reconciliation on this island”.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said the Queen’s visit to the Republic of Ireland last year had “taken relations between the two countries to a new level”.

The spokesperson added: “We think it is right that the Queen should meet representatives from all parts of the community.”

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said he very much welcomed the meeting between the Queen and Martin McGuinness.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Gerry Adams said: “It brings our journey of relationship building within this island and between these islands onto a new plane.”

He added: “I think the vast majority of unionists will be pleased this happened because they know it was essentially a real gesture towards their sense of identity and their sense of allegiance.”

“Whatever personal feelings Martin may have, no more than myself, doesn’t come into it. It was a good thing for him to do and I commend him for it,” he added.

Those present at the Lyric event included the pianist Barry Douglas, poet Michael Longley and actors Adrian Dunbar and Conleth Hill.

The Queen and Prince Philip later toured Titanic Belfast, a new visitors’ centre located near where the ship was built. She has also unveiled a plaque to commemorate the visit.

She enjoyed a lunch which included traditional Irish soda bread, Comber potatoes, the sweet toffee yellow man, and ice cream.

At the end of the day the Queen and Prince Philip were driven through the grounds of Northern Ireland’s seat of government in an open-topped vehicle.

The royal motorcade was cheered by around 20,000 attending a party to mark the monarch’s 60-year reign.

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The Queen’s Jubilee celebrations are to conclude with a glittering procession and service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral.


The Queen's Jubilee celebrations are to conclude with a glittering procession and service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral

The Queen's Jubilee celebrations are to conclude with a glittering procession and service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral

10:30 St Paul’s service begins

11:30 The Queen is driven to Mansion House reception

12:45 Livery hosts Diamond Jubilee Lunch at Westminster Hall

14:20 Carriage procession begins

14:40 Royal Family arrives at Buckingham Palace


The Queen’s Jubilee celebrations are to conclude with a glittering procession and service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Prince Philip is still in hospital with a bladder infection and will miss the final events marking the Queen’s 60-year reign.

A service at St Paul’s Cathedral will be followed by a carriage procession and, weather allowing, an RAF flypast.

Queen Elizabeth II recorded a message of thanks to the nation ahead of a star-studded concert at Buckingham Palace on Monday.

The two-minute message, filmed in her private apartments at the palace, will be broadcast at 18:00 BST on radio and television in the UK and across the Commonwealth.

Crowds have started building up outside St Paul’s and Buckingham Palace, which the Queen will leave at 10:15 BST in her state Bentley for the service.

The fourth day of celebrations will be a more formal affair, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, giving a sermon in front of the Royal Family and leading national figures.

Prime Minister David Cameron will lead the large representation from the government at St Paul’s alongside diplomats and foreign leaders.

After the service, the Queen will attend a reception at Mansion House – the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will attend a similar event at the Guildhall.

The Queen's Jubilee celebrations are to conclude with a glittering procession and service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral

The Queen's Jubilee celebrations are to conclude with a glittering procession and service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral

A City of London Livery companies lunch at Westminster Hall will follow, after which the royals will take part in a carriage procession through Whitehall.

Guests will dine on salmon, followed by Welsh lamb, grilled Isle of Wight asparagus, Jersey Royal potatoes and chocolate delice, bread and butter pudding and berry compote with apple sauce.

Personnel from all three armed services will line the streets for the procession, and the King’s Troop will fire a 60-gun salute.

As the royals arrive back in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, there will be a guard of honor. They will then gather on the balcony to watch a fly-past of World War II aircraft and a display by the Red Arrows.

Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry are among the royal family members involved in the events.

Forecasters say the weather in central London will be cloudy and dry at first, with a top temperature of 14C, but there may be outbreaks of rain in the afternoon.

Prince Philip, 90, will remain under observation at King Edward VII Hospital in London, where he was taken on Monday as a “precautionary measure”.

In December, he was treated at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge for a blocked coronary artery.

At the concert on Monday night, attended by 12,000 people, Prince Charles paid tribute to his mother, describing her as “mummy” and a “very special person”.

But he added there was a disappointing edge to the night.

“The only sad thing about this evening is that my father couldn’t be with us because, unfortunately, he was taken ill,” Prince Charles said.

Take That star Gary Barlow, who helped organize much of the concert and sang a duet with Cheryl Cole, said the prince’s illness was “sad, really sad”.

Robbie Williams opened the show with Let Me Entertain You and was the first to perform for the Queen when he sang big band classic Mack the Knife. Other performers included Kylie Minogue, Jessie J, Annie Lennox, Sir Tom Jones, Madness, Stevie Wonder and Sir Cliff Richard – singing a medley of his songs from six different decades.

The concert was brought to a close by Sir Paul McCartney who played hits including Magical Mystery Tour, Let It Be and a rendition of Live and Let Die, complete with fireworks and pyrotechnics.

After the show, the Queen pressed a diamond-shaped crystal into a pod, igniting a beacon in The Mall to mark her 60 years on the throne. It was one of more than 4,000 lit across the UK and the Commonwealth.

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Celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in London with your neighbors by hosting a Big Jubilee Lunch.

Big Jubilee Lunch in London




The Big Lunch is an annual nationwide event which encourages people across the UK to enjoy lunch with their neighbors.

This year The Big Lunch falls on the same weekend as The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, which is a four-day Bank Holiday weekend. So dust off the bunting and Union Jack flags from the Royal Wedding and enjoy a lunch fit for The Queen!

All you have to do is gather together your neighbors and choose what kind of an event you want – from a small gathering raising money for charity to a full-blown street party with music and a barbeque.

How to Organize a Big Jubilee Lunch


Every year since it began in 2009, The Big Lunch has been enjoyed by more than a million people, and this year’s special Big Jubilee Lunch is likely to attract even more participants.

If you want to get involved and set up your own local event, follow the “10 Steps to Organizing a Big Lunch Guide” on the Big Lunch website.

You can also request a Big Jubilee Lunch pack, containing advice as well as posters, leaflets and recipes.


The Central Weekend 2 – 5 June 2012




The Central Weekend to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee takes place from Saturday 2 June to Tuesday 5 June 2012, with celebratory activities throughout the UK and across the Commonwealth

If you are considering visiting central London to join in with the celebrations, you may find it useful to visit the Transport for London website

Alternatively, you may wish to consider watching events on one of the many BBC Big Screens around the UK.

For information about the Official Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Programme click here.

Here is our run-down  of events over the Diamond Jubilee weekend, including approximate timings:

Saturday 2 June, 2012


The Queen will attend the Epsom Derby.

Sunday 3 June, 2012


The Big Jubilee Lunch: Building on the already popular Big Lunch initiative, people will be encouraged to share lunch with neighbours and friends as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. This may take the form of a traditional street party or a picnic lunch in small or larger groups. This event is being organised by the Big Lunch. Find out more.

The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant: This event will take place on the Thames and consist of up to 1,000 boats assembled from across the UK, the Commonwealth and around the world. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will travel in the Royal Barge which will form the centrepiece of the flotilla. Find out more

Approximate timings are as follows:

14:30BST – The Queen embarks the Royal barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, near Albert Bridge  

16:15BST  – The Royal Barge comes alongside HMS President (Royal Naval Reserve Unit), near Tower Bridge  

Monday 4 June, 2012


BBC Concert at Buckingham Palace: There will be a televised Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace with tickets being available to UK residents by public ballot. The musical programme for the concert is still being planned and is expected to feature British and Commonwealth musicians. Details on how to apply for the concert will be available in due course. This event is being organised by the BBC. Find out more

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Beacons: A network of 2,012 Beacons will be lit by communities and individuals throughout the United Kingdom, as well as the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Commonwealth. As in 2002, The Queen will light the National Beacon. Find out more

Approximate timings are as follows:

19:30BST  – Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace begins

After 22:30BST – The Queen lights the National Beacon outside Buckingham Palace 


Tuesday 5 June, 2012


On Tuesday 5 June, the Diamond Jubilee weekend will culminate with a day of celebrations in central London, including a service at St Paul’s Cathedral followed by two receptions, a lunch at Westminster Hall, a Carriage Procession to Buckingham Palace and finally a Balcony appearance, Flypast, and Feu de Joie. Find out more.

Download the Order of Service

Approximate timings are as follows:

10:15BST – The Queen leaves Buckingham Palace by car

10:30-11.30BST – Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s  

12.30BST – The Queen travels by car from Mansion House to the Palace of Westminster

14:20BST – Carriage Procession from Westminster Hall to Buckingham Palace commences

Approximately 15:25BST – Royal Family appear on the Balcony at Buckingham Palace 



Top 10 Art Exhibitions in London




Don’t miss out on the best London exhibitions! Catch one of these great London exhibitions as chosen by our editorial team.


Damien Hirst at Tate Modern



A shark suspended in formaldehyde, a bisected cow and calf… Damien Hirst is well-known for his imaginative and sometimes shocking works. This April, Tate Modern unveils the first substantial survey of Damien Hirst’s work ever held in the UK, featuring more than 70 iconic pieces. Until 9 Sep


Picasso and Modern British Art at Tate Britain


The influence of Picasso on British art and artists has rarely been recognized – until now, thanks to Tate Britain’s new exhibition. Picasso and Modern British Art explore the Spanish artist’s reputation in Britain, and looks at how Picasso’s work affected British modernism and inspired British artists. Until 15 Jul


British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age


In this Olympic year the Victoria & Albert Museum celebrates the best of British art and design since London last held the Olympic Games, in 1948. The exhibition brings together more than 300 objects from the fields of fashion, ceramics, graphics, photography, sculpture, product design, architecture, furniture and fine art. Until 12 Aug


Yayoi Kusama



One of Japan’s best-known living artists, Yayoi Kusama’s work spans more than six decades. Kusama is known for her immersive artworks and at this Tate Modern exhibition you can wander through a series of rooms covered in hallucinatory polka dots, mirrors and more. Until 5 Jun

Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude



Turner’s daring painting technique dazzled audiences at the beginning of the 19th century and influenced future generations of artists. This National Gallery exhibition examines how Turner was inspired by Claude’s portrayal of light and landscape, and features pictures by Turner and Claude hung side-by-side. Until 5 Jun


Royal River: Power, Pageantry and the Thames at the National Maritime Museum


As well as being The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, 2012 sees the 75th birthday of the National Maritime Museum. Royal River celebrates them both by exploring the relationship between British monarchs and the River Thames throughout history. Royal River is curated by one of Britain’s leading historians, David Starkey. Until 9 Sep


Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist at the Queen’s Gallery


Don’t miss the largest-ever exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. Da Vinci produced amazingly accurate anatomical drawings. His research included working in hospitals and medicals schools, where he dissected human and animal material. Until 7 Oct


Christian Louboutin at the Design Museum


This Design Museum offers a unique retrospective of famous shoe designer Christian Louboutin’s work and a preview of his next collection. Using items from Christian Louboutin’s personal archive the exhibition showcases his designs, methods and inspirations over the past 20 years. Until 9 Jul


The Queen: Art and Image at the National Portrait Gallery


To celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the National Portrait Gallery is bringing together 60 images from The Queen’s 60-year reign. See how The Queen has been portrayed through painting, photography and press images by renowned artists and photographers. Until 21 Oct


Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition


Don’t miss the highly popular summer exhibition at the Royal Academy, now in its 244th year. Displaying some of the best of contemporary art, the exhibition features more than 1,200 works by both new and distinguished artists, many of which are available to purchase. 4 Jun-12 Aug