Celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee by Visiting Royal Residences
The bunting is hung, cakes have been named, trees have been planted and concerts have been organised to celebrate 70 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign over the United Kingdom and Commonwealth. Could there possibly be a better way to celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee than to visit England? A themed cruise on Magna Carta is a great place to start to discover more about the royal history of the realm…
Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee
Queen Elizabeth II succeeded her father, George VI, in 1952 at the age of only 25 years old. Her coronation in 1953 was famously broadcasted all over the world. She is the third-longest reigning monarch in the world and the longest reigning female monarch. Elizabeth II became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch in 2015, stealing the lead from her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. This year marks her platinum jubilee, celebrating 70 years of service to the Crown.
Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State in the United Kingdom and fourteen other countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea and Antigua. In 2021, Barbados became a Republic and removed Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State, though it chose to remain a member of the Commonwealth. The Queen is head of the Commonwealth, which is constituted of 54 member countries with ties to the former British Empire.
Though she is Queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II is a constitutional monarch, meaning that her duties are mostly ceremonial. Great Britain’s laws are made by a Prime Minister and through an elected Parliament.
Windsor Castle is Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite residence. Though most of her political duties are carried out at Buckingham Palace in London, the Queen prefers to stay at Windsor Castle when business allows. Visitors to the Castle can enjoy wandering around the castle precincts to see the distinctive grey-stone walls built by Henry III in the 1220s. See the iconic Round Tower, which is where the original moated castle was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Explore the North Terrace, where you can enjoy incredible views of Windsor Great Park and find the entrance to Queen Mary’s Doll’s House, which was created by master craftsmen in the early 1920s.
Enjoy an awe-inspiring audio tour throughout the State Apartments where you can see silverware, tapestries and incredible artworks on display. Learn about the priceless works of art in the Royal Collection by famous artists like Anthony Van Dyck, Peter Paul Rubens, Lucas Cranach the Younger and Peter Lely. Stride through St George’s Hall, which was rebuilt in the 1990s after a devastating fire. Here, you can view the coats of arms of all the Knights of the Order of the Garter, going back to its founding in 1348 by Edward III. Its windows look out on the Queen’s courtyard and the ‘Long Walk’, a drive that extends for more than 2.5 miles into The Great Park.
Our Royal theme cruise itinerary on Magna Carta features a private tour of St George’s Chapel, which was founded in 1348. You will be met at Henry VIII’s gate and taken on a unique and very special tour ‘Behind the scenes of the College of St. George’. After being invited into the Canon’s Office for refreshments, you’ll receive a talk about the College, before being taken around St Georges Chapel with access to many private areas including the Vestry, Edward IV Chantry and the Albert Memorial Chapel. See the ornately carved choir stalls and learn the fascinating secrets about the royal inhabitants of the underground crypt, which includes the tombs of Henry VIII and his favourite wife, Jane Seymour.
Before you leave, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the café where you can enjoy a very British cream tea, complete with jam and scones. If you’re lucky, you’ll even catch the Changing of the Guard as the soldiers march through the castle to change positions, with the brass band playing well known themes from films like ‘Indiana Jones’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘Star Wars’.
Hampton Court Palace
The magnificent Hampton Court Palace has belonged to the English Crown since the times of Henry VIII (r.1509-1543). Built in 1514 by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the Palace was later gifted to the King as he showed such a fondness for it. Just outside of London, Hampton Court Palace served Henry well for hunting expeditions into its surrounding forests with his favourite nobles. His servants were tasked with preparing the game they returned with in the Tudor kitchens, which you can still experience today. If you’re lucky, your visit might even coincide with the cooks preparing some meat on the spit! Experience the Tudor wood-beamed Great Hall and try not to tremble as you walk through the haunted gallery; reputed to be where Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, ran screaming to the door of the Royal Chapel when she found that Henry knew of her affair!
The Palace has seen some huge renovations in its time, such as the one under joint monarchs, William III (r.1689-1702) and Mary II (r.1689-1694), and under King George I (r.1714-1727). Experience the state rooms, closets and orangery of William III (Duke of Orange) and the state and private rooms of Queen Caroline, who was married to King George II (r.1727-1760). Additionally, you can visit the stunning, still functional chapel, which was installed under Queen Anne (r.1702-1707). You can even see Henry VIII’s replica crown on display there!
The Palace was first opened to the public by Queen Victoria in (r.1838-1901). Hampton Court Palace hasn’t been lived in by monarchs since George II in 1737 and is now predominantly a visitor attraction and venue for food festivals, music concerts and the annual RHS Hampton Court Flower Show.
England is a country that is rich with heritage and full of histories. A cruise on Magna Carta takes visitors along the River Thames, which is peppered with rural views, landscaped estates, quaint villages and of course, stately homes. Some areas along the river have changed so little for hundreds of years that at points, you’ll feel completely immersed in the past.
The itinerary includes a visit to the Cliveden Estate, which once belonged to Charles II’s favourite, George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. The duke had a reputation for being a bit of a rake (an old fashioned term for someone immoral) and he acquired the estate for his mistress, the Duchess of Shrewsbury. Later in its history, Cliveden was home to the American Astor family. The house became a destination for high society in the twentieth century, with Nancy and Waldorf Astor entertaining Prime Ministers like David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. Cliveden hit the headlines in 1963 for all the wrong reasons when it was discovered that Secretary of State, John Profumo, had met his mistress, Christine Keeler, at a party there. Learn more about its intriguing tales and associations when you visit. Stroll through Italianate gardens and admire the architecture from the sunny South Terrace.
In addition, we couldn’t possibly miss the countryside cruise along the famous Henley Regatta Rowing Course, site of the most famous regatta in the world and a key part of the English summer social “season”. Magna Carta stops in Oxford for a fascinating tour of Christ Church College, which is Oxford University’s grandest college, founded by Cardinal Wolsey and King Henry VIII. Feel the magic of your magnificent surroundings where Charles Dodgson, known widely as Lewis Carrol, recalled the story of Alice in Wonderland to a young Alice Liddell and her sisters, as they rowed along the river.