The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant will be led by the Gloriana – the £1 million, 94ft long royal barge – on June 3 and the boat has been launched on the river already. The rowbarge, which has been made from sweet chestnut trees from Prince Charles’ private estate, was escorted through London on a truck as it was transported from a unit in Brentford to Isleworth, where it was put into the River Thames. Although we already know the name of the boat, the Queen will formally name it the Gloriana when she visits Greenwich on Wednesday, April 25, where she will be unveiling the renovated Cutty Sark.
The pageant for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee will include more than 1,000 boats and involve some 20,000 people sailing down the river in celebration of Her Majesty’s 60 years on the throne. The pageant will sail from Wandsworth to Tower Bridge. Powered by 18 oarsmen, the Gloriana will carry Her Majesty and Duke of Edinburgh on the seven-mile procession of Dunkirk Little Ships, tug boats, steam boats and historic vessels. The royal barge will be covered in gold leaf and carry more royals that the Queen and her consort. They haven’t been officially named, but Charles, Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall; Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; and Prince Harry are speculated to be among them.
Jeffrey Sterling, Baron Sterling of Plaistow, the life president of P & O Cruises, organised the celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee in 2002. He’s behind the project that created the Gloriana, but says the idea for the tribute to the Queen came from Prince Charles. Lord Sterling says he became fascinated with the idea of building something timeless and was inspired from Canaletto’s paintings, which show the great barges of the 18th Century. This is when he decided to build one.
Lord Sterling added that if they had to, they would give it a Regency style. It can carry 52 people, including the 18 oarsmen. Nothing like this has really been built for 200 years, and it will last for 200 years if it’s looked after. This project has been huge, as they have done it in far less time than the typical year it would usually take, he added. The project started last November, and the team commissioned to build it, which was led by master-builder Mark Edwards, worked 18-hour days to finish.
Meanwhile, it has also been revealed that the Lady Gay is undergoing a right royal makeover so that it can take its place behind the Gloriana. The Dunkirk Little Ship is owned by Jason Carley, of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships. He is organising a 100-strong flotilla of Dunkirk vessels to join the procession.
Carley says that Dunkirk Little Ships will be in the section right behind the royal barge. The Lady Gay will have to keep up, so he’s giving her a full engine service, as well as fresh paint and varnish to make her look her best. Boats like these are an important link to the maritime history of Britain. Dunkirk is a key event that British people can identify themselves with, and it’s great to participate in the Queen’s celebrations, he added.