The Queen kicked off her 4-day Diamond Jubilee celebrations on Saturday 2nd June 2012 by attending one of her favourite pursuits; flat racing. The Derby is one event which she has rarely missed since her Coronation back in 1953. The weather over the racecourse was decidedly grey and overcast, with angry clouds threatening to obscure the aircraft delivering the Red Devil display team. The paratroopers started the proceedings in spectacular fashion with a free-fall parachute display; hurtled earthwards at 40 mph. A group of the finest paratroopers, crimson smoke flaring from their heels, beneath patriotically striped canopies staged a dramatic jump in front of the main stand; the finale being the unfurling of a large Union Flag.
The Royal train arrived at Tattenham Corner Station about 1pm along with other royal dignitaries. The Queen & Prince Philip transferred to the claret State Bentley and drove onto the racecourse at Tattenham Corner; close to where the suffragette Emily Davison threw herself in front of King George V’s horse, Anmer, in 1913. The royal cavalcade included the Duke of York, his daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and Prince and princess Michael of Kent. She drove round the outside of the course to the finishing line to a great ovation, followed by a Land Rover containing members the Royal Protection Squad.
The royal delegation were greeted at the finishing line by the Welsh mezzo soprano, Katherine Jenkins, who fronted the band of the Royal Marines. She revealed that she had driven through the night to be present at the royal occasion so that she could deliver a robust rendition of the National Anthem. The Queen wore an eye-catching outfit by Stewart Parvin, choosing a woollen coat of Royal blue over a white silk day dress with a floral pattern with matching hat. Prince Philip wore a sober longue suit bedecked with a white carnation. Then Queen and Price Philip made their way up to the Royal box which was decked out in red, white and blue blossoms. The Queen’s stand was flying two flags; the Royal Standard, to signify the presence of the Queen, and the Union Flag.
Racing commenced at 1:35pm with the Diamond Jubilee Handicap, with the first of seven races. A Jubilee addition to the race card was the third race of the day, the Diamond Jubilee Coronation Cup, which is usually run as the Coronation Cup on Ladies’ Day. The Queen visibly enjoyed the racing. Strolling to the Parade Ring with Prince Philip, clutching the race card to inspect the runners for the main race of the day; the Derby. She admired the horses with a keen eye developed over a lifetime of breeding from the Royal stables. The final race of the day was the Investec: Out of the Ordinary Handicap at 5:25pm.
The Derby is one of the year’s classic races; over 1 mile 4 furlongs and 10 yards for 3-year olds. The O’Brien family landed an historic victory in the 2012 Epson Derby. The favourite Camelot, 8-13 fav, won the race by 5 lengths; trained by Aiden O’Brien and ridden by his 19-yearold son Joseph O’Brien. Second was Main Sequence @ 9-1 and Astrology was third @ 13-2. It was the lowest field for 105 years, with only 9 runners and riders. Having already won the 2,000 Guineas Stakes and the Epsom Derby, his win leaves the door open for Camelot to complete the Triple Crown of racing with the St Ledger Stakes at Doncaster in September.
The Derby has been the scene of much disappointment for the Queen; she has never won it with any of her 10 hopefuls in a lifetime of trying. In 1953, the new queen nearly had a coronation victory, when her horse, Aureole, however it finished second. She was present again last year at Epsom Downs, when her horse Carlton House, the favourite, finished third. She was absent from the balcony for the race, but came out to see the winner, Camelot, being lead into the unsaddling enclosure. Some people speculated that she was regrouping after her horse ‘Set To Music’ came second in the 3:10pm race at Haydock Park.
The centre of Epsom Downs was a heaving mass of humanity; helicopters, funfair rides, beer tents, coaches, cars, enclosures, tents, large video screens …and people. The majority of the 150,000 crowd were situated in this central area. Special places were designated as crossing points. These places were covered with long strands of grass, so as not to distract the horses when racing. Portable barbeques were the order of the day. The air was heavy with the smoke of cooking burgers, sausages and chicken drumsticks; wafting on the gentle breeze. The beer was flowing freely; with the length of queues for the portable toilets; equal for men and women alike. The floor was littered with unsuccessful gambling tickets, discarded food, squashed beer cans and empty bottle of wine.
There is no doubting that Camelot’s win was one of the finest displays in the Derby in modern times. It was one that clearly delighted the Queen, who chose to spend the first day of her Diamond Jubilee weekend indulging in her favourite pastime of horse racing.
…and finally; Hertfordshire
How did Hertfordshire contribute towards the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, I hear you ask? Apart from lighting one of the over 4,000 beacons across the United Kingdom at Hertford Castle, decking the houses and buildings out with mile upon mile of bunting, hosting the biggest street party in Buntingford, holding many fancy dress competitions and arranging numerous picnics & al fresco events. Hertfordshire played host to the World War II aircraft which concluded 4-days of events to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The country had enjoyed seeing the Queen enjoying herself at the flat racing meeting at Epsom Downs, floating along the River Thames on ‘The Spirit of Chartwell’ amongst the flotilla of little ships and around the Queen Victotria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace for the musical concert. The final day was the serious stuff. First was a service of dedication at St Paul’s Cathedral, the reception at Mansion House, the lunch at Westminster Hall, an open-carriage drive home, the ubiqutous photo-call. The balcony appearance is a tradition which stretches back to 1851. Queen Victoria, the only other monarch in British history to mark her Diamond Jubilee, stepped out to greet the crowds celebrating the opening of the Great Exhibition. Since then, appearances have marked coronations, weddings and war victories.
The RAF flypast was the invention of George VI, together with the Red Arrows. Spot on 15:30 were the 3 elements which made up the fly past; the Dakota formation, the World War II configuration and the colourful Red Arrows. First, there was a solitary Dakota bomber accompanied by two King Air twin-turboprop aircraft. Next, the planes of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. This was made up of an Avro Lancaster bomber flanked by 4 Spitfires, two on each side and a lone Hawker Hurricane bringing up the rear. You only have to hear the unmistakeable sound of its Merlin engine to be transported back when Britannia did really rule the waves. These aircraft are symbols of the Battle of Britain in 1940 and a testament to Britain’s resourcefulness and brilliance. In the final contingent was the Red Arrows display team. This consisted of nine Hawk Jets in their distinctive red insignia in close formation. As they flew down The Mall they unleashed a stream of patriotic smoke; red, white and blue …what a site. It was the first time during the 4-day celebrations that the noise of the crowd was almost drowned out.
Hertfordshire played its own special part in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations; it provided the flight path back to their respective bases for the flypast aircraft. About 7 minutes after they had flown up The Mall and over Buckingham Palace balcony they were glimpsed over the Hertford skyline …briefly. You would have been forgiven if you blinked and missed it. First was the Lancaster bomber with her escorts. Shortly afterwards were the Dakota bomber and the two King Airs. As quickly as they had appeared …they were gone.