Southampton’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations seemed to follow London’s in many respects. The focus was boats (three Queens instead of one), music was heard from the stage in Mayflower Park, and crowds lined the waterways to see the maritime spectacle.
The city has been central throughout history in regard to the UK’s fondness of being ‘Britannia’ that ‘rules the waves’, so it seemed fitting that any celebrations taking place in Southampton should be centred at the waterfront.
Southampton’s port was the point of departure for the Pilgrim Fathers’ voyage to America in 1620, as well as being the place that attracted thousands to line the shore to bid the Titanic goodbye on her ill-fated voyage 100 years ago.
More recently, the docks were the main military shipping terminal in the First World War, and they became an important departure location in the D-Day landings. Today it continues to be the centre for cruise liners and container shipments on the south coast.
And, of course, Southampton University was awarded the Royal charter, to become a recognised University, in 1952 in the first few weeks of Queens Elizabeth II’s reign. 2012 also being the university’s 60th year added to the experience of the Diamond Jubilee – so here’s a personal view of Tuesday’s celebrations:
The highlight of the Southampton event was due to be the Red Arrows, as they promised a spectacular acrobatics display in the evening – unfortunately the weather ended any hopes of that.
We left the Mayflower Park in search of more sturdy umbrellas in preparation for the evening’s focus on the Three Queens and fireworks.
The ‘Three Queens’ refers to the Cunard cruise liners which were all in Southampton Harbour for the Jubilee celebrations. The RMS Queen Mary 2, the MS Queen Victoria, and the MS Queen Elizabeth complete the three Queens collection. These boats provided the focus and finale in Southampton.
The fireworks were an impressive sight across the shipping channel. Water always provides a great, reflective plane for fireworks, though this time the seafront setting had another not so welcome effect: cloud cover.
The fireworks were therefore received with slightly comic amusement. Largely hidden by some dark, hanging cloud we could only really see the lowest ones. Fortunately, the cheaper and therefore lower flying fireworks had their moment. The big bangs only made an ambient light fill the sky, and occasionally sparks would be revealed from the clouds like ash dropped from a cigarette. In a unique way it provided great entertainment.
Then came the finale to the Queen’s Jubilee event. Flags waved as horns blasted from all three of the Cunard cruise liners. The crowd were moved to awe as the fronts of the huge vessels were moved to side profiles – the ships were magnificent in scale.
We could hear the passengers of the mighty ships sing the national anthem as each liner left in the reverse order of construction: The Queen Mary 2, The Queen Victoria, and The Queen Elizabeth.
Southampton’s historic importance as a city provided a fitting maritime – if not weather affected – end to the long weekend of celebration.