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Party Before the Hangover: Queen’s Jubilee Offers Britons Respite From Woes

LONDON — Britain wrapped up a joyful four-day tribute to Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday with street fairs, picnics and a pageant, after a star-studded Saturday night concert at Buckingham Palace that offered a pop-culture mash-up of Rod Stewart performing Neil Diamond’s singalong, “Sweet Caroline.”

Good times, as the song says, never seemed so good.

But if millions of Britons reveled in the queen’s Platinum Jubilee — or at least in the lazy pleasures of a late-spring, long weekend — it might have been a wise case of partying before the bar closes.

On Monday, Britain pivots from the queen’s 70-year reign to renewed political ructions over Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as to worries that the country faces “stagflation,” the double-whammy of recession and inflation that last afflicted Britain after the queen marked her Silver Jubilee in 1977.

“I’m pretty sure the jubilee atmosphere is a four-day wonder, and that the national mood will turn fairly sour again fairly quickly,” said Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London.

“It feels like we’re all waiting for something to happen,” he added. “For the storm or the dam to break. But it’s hard to predict if it will.”

Rod Stewart performing onstage in front of Buckingham Palace on Saturday.Credit…Pool photo by Jeff J. Mitchell

The uneasy mood intruded briefly on the festivities when the comedian Lee Mack greeted 22,000 spectators at the concert, which was staged at the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of the gates to Buckingham Palace. “Finally,” he joked, “we can say the words ‘party’ and ‘gate,’ and it’s a positive.”

The crowd laughed at the reference to the long-simmering scandal over lockdown-breaking parties at 10 Downing Street, which the London tabloids have inevitably nicknamed “Partygate.”

For Mr. Johnson, who was seated behind Prince Charles and other family members in the royal box, it was the second wrist-slap of the jubilee. On Friday, boos drowned out cheers as he and his wife, Carrie, climbed the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral for a service of thanksgiving for the queen.

The scandal looks to be flaring up again: the Sunday Times of London reported on June 4 that Mr. Johnson could face a no-confidence vote as soon as this week, with one unnamed rebel in the Conservative Party estimating that lawmakers had surpassed the threshold of 54 letters calling for a vote.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife, Carrie, arriving for the pageant marking the end of the celebrations, on Sunday.Credit…Pool photo by Ben Stansall

Mr. Johnson’s political obituary has been written before, including at other times during this scandal. He survived being fined by the police for violating lockdown rules, as well as the publication of an internal report on the affair, which blamed him for an alcohol-soaked culture in Downing Street.

Critics of Mr. Johnson, however, pointed to a new poll taken before a critical Parliamentary by-election in Wakefield, a longtime Labour Party district that the Conservatives won in the 2019 election on Mr. Johnson’s promise to “Get Brexit Done.” The seat, in West Yorkshire, is open because the Tory former lawmaker, Imran Ahmad Khan, was jailed on charges of child sexual assault.

The survey, conducted by the pollster James Johnson, showed Labour holding a lead of 20 percentage points over the Conservatives. Mr. Johnson, who conducted polls for former Prime Minister Theresa May, wrote on Twitter that the main reason people gave for planning to vote Labour was antipathy toward the prime minister.

If the Conservatives are swept out of that seat, as well as out of another one, in Tiverton and Honiton — where the incumbent, Neil Parish, resigned after admitting he had watched pornography on his phone while in the House of Commons — political analysts said panicky Tory lawmakers would trigger a no-confidence vote.

Even if Mr. Johnson survives that, some predict he will face a winter of misery, as the country deals with surging food and fuel prices. The International Monetary Fund estimated last month that consumer prices would soar 13 percent this year and next. Other forecasters said a recession was unavoidable.

People gathering for the Big Jubilee Lunch on the Long Walk in Windsor on Sunday.Credit…Daniel Leal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

With all that looming, Britons could be forgiven for dwelling on the last 70 years, an era in which the queen anchored the country through previous bouts of political, economic and social turbulence.

Some Key Moments in Queen Elizabeth’s Reign


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Becoming queen. After the death of King George VI, Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary ascended to the throne on Feb. 6, 1952, at age 25. The coronation of the newly minted Queen Elizabeth II took place on June 2 the next year.

A historic visit. On May 18, 1965, Elizabeth arrived in Bonn on the first state visit by a British monarch to Germany in more than 50 years. The trip formally sealed the reconciliation between the two nations following the world wars.

First grandchild. In 1977, the queen stepped into the role of grandmother for the first time, after Princess Anne gave birth to a son, Peter. Elizabeth’s four children have given her a total of eight grandchildren, who have been followed by several great-grandchildren.

Princess Diana’s death. In a rare televised broadcast before Diana’s funeral in 1997, Queen Elizabeth remembered the Princess of Wales, who died in a car crash in Paris at age 36, as “an exceptional and gifted human being.”

Golden Jubilee. In 2002, celebrations to mark Elizabeth II’s 50 years as queen culminated in a star-studded concert at Buckingham Palace in the presence of 12,000 cheering guests, with an estimated one million more watching on giant screens set up around London.

A trip to Ireland. In May 2011, the queen visited Ireland, whose troubled relationship with the British monarchy spanned centuries. The trip, infused with powerful symbols of reconciliation, is considered one of the most politically freighted trips of Elizabeth’s reign.

Breaking a record. As of 5:30 p.m. British time on Sept. 9, 2015, Elizabeth II became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, surpassing Queen Victoria, her great-great-grandmother. Elizabeth was 89 at the time and had ruled for 23,226 days, 16 hours and about 30 minutes.

Marking 70 years of marriage. On Nov. 20, 2017, the queen and Prince Philip celebrated their 70th anniversary, becoming the longest-married couple in royal history. The two wed in 1947, as the country and the world was still reeling from the atrocities of World War II.

Losing her spouse. In 2021, Queen Elizabeth II bade farewell to Prince Philip, who died on April 9. An image of the queen grieving alone at the funeral amid coronavirus restrictions struck a chord with viewers at home following the event.

“You laugh and cry with us and, most importantly, have been there for us, for these 70 years,” said Prince Charles, who spoke at the concert and referred to his 96-year-old mother as “Her Majesty” and “Mummy.”

On Sunday, the queen, clad in green, made another appearance on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, after missing most of the festivities because of trouble walking. A crowd of several thousand saluted her with “God Save the Queen.”

At the concert the night before, Elizabeth stole the show with a prerecorded sequence in which she shared a mishap-prone cream tea with Paddington Bear, voiced by the actor Ben Whishaw.

The two bonded over their love of marmalade sandwiches, with the queen pulling one out of her handbag. Then, clicking spoons rhythmically against their teacups, they sounded the familiar opening drumbeat of “We Will Rock You,” as the British band Queen began playing their hit song on the stage.

Paddington Bear taking tea with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace, in a film shown at Saturday night’s concert. Credit… Buckingham Palace

The sequence was reminiscent of the 2012 Olympic Games, which featured an even more elaborate sketch of the queen and James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, parachuting into the stadium from a helicopter during the opening ceremony.

On Sunday, a carnival, with marching bands and dragons, filled the square where Diana Ross, Alicia Keys and Duran Duran had performed. In towns across Britain, residents set out tables, wrapped in red-white-and-blue bunting, and served cucumber sandwiches and Pimm’s cocktails to their neighbors.

“It’s a great opportunity to connect people who wouldn’t know each other,” said Alina Wallace, who works in public relations and had prepared a jar of gin and grapefruit in London’s Honeybrook Road.

A few streets away, Hannah Stanislaus stood behind a table filled with cheese scones, Victoria sandwich sponge cake, muffins, shortbread and fruit cake. In the past four days, she said, she had attended four street parties.

“It’s the official comeback of the British people after Covid,” she said. “The jubilee has given a chance to people to reconcile.”

The BBC Platinum Party at the Palace on Saturday night featured a drone display.Credit…Hannah Mckay/Reuters

Emma Bubola contributed reporting.

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