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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Queen's Jubilee tour draws to a close
Nick Higham, BBC's arts and media correspondent, gives News Online a roundup of the Queens Jubilee tour
On the final day of the Queen's Jubilee tour of the UK, the BBC's arts and media correspondent Nick Higham looks back on the highlights of the last three months.

Balmoral, and the last official engagement of the Golden Jubilee tour.

In the lush gardens of the Queen's Scottish home beside the river Dee they are making last minute preparations for Wednesday afternoon's garden party for 3000 guests from Deeside and North East Scotland.

For a monarch who has spent decades seeking consensus, ruling a society with virtually no consensus about anything poses a real challenge

Virtually everyone in Braemar and Ballater, the two little towns closest to Balmoral, seems to have been invited.

It is the first time the Queen has hosted a garden party in a place where she is normally careful of her privacy.

Now the pipes and drums of the First Battalion Highlanders and the 51st Highland Military band are rehearsing the beating retreat, the marching and military music which will bring the afternoon to a close on the lawns up by Balmoral castle.

Away from the house a man is cutting the grass, despite Tuesday's torrential rain which left everything soaked and the Queen reportedly rather grumpy at such a wet start to her holiday.

Critics confounded

Perhaps she was a little tired as well. She had just had two late nights, at the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games on Sunday and the Edinburgh Tattoo on Monday.

And the three-month long Jubilee tour, though it has included plenty of breaks, has been demanding for a woman of 76, not to mention her 81-year-old husband.

The Queen greets well-wishers at Gunwharf Quay,  Portsmouth
The Queen has travelled the length and breadth of the UK
But at the end of it all, the Queen and her advisors can look back on a Jubilee Celebration which has been an undoubted success, despite the sceptics at the start of the year who forecast it would be a damp squib.

But that was before the Queen Mother died and hundreds of thousands filed past her coffin in Westminster Hall, while millions more watched her funeral in the streets of London or on television.

Sad though her mother's death was for the Queen, the timing could not have been better so far as the Jubilee celebrations were concerned. Millions suddenly remembered what the monarchy meant to them.

It is intriguing to wonder what the public reaction to the Jubilee would have been if the Queen Mother had not died. As it was, her death helped give the lie to those pundits who predicted failure.

They said no-one would bother to organise street parties because we had all lost our sense of community in the 25 years since the Silver Jubilee of 1977.

They said no-one would turn out to witness the rituals of royal visits, unveiling plaques, going walk-about, watching local performers go through their places, making polite chit-chat with local dignitaries. They said the celebrations of the central weekend in June would fall flat.

In the event people did organise street parties and took part in most of the regional visits, although the turn-out was noticeably disappointing in a few places, like central Scotland and north Wales.

Free party

And a million people packed the Mall, not once but twice during the Jubilee weekend, lured by the relay on giant TV screens of Monday night's pop concert and by a chance to sing Land of Hope and Glory in a benevolent orgy of patriotism on the Sunday.

100,000 copies of the CD of the Party at the Palace, produced by EMI, were sold within the first week of release
Around 200 million people watched the Palace concert

"Throw a giant free party and of course people will come," the cynics said.

The monarchies' defenders begged to differ, saying most of those who thronged central London, or watched on television were motivated by a genuine affection for the Queen and for the idea of monarchy, as much as by a selfish desire to have a good time.

In Preston on Monday, in a short speech looking back on the whole Jubilee tour, the Queen spoke not only of how profoundly moved she had been by the warmth of the welcome she had had around the country, but also of how the Jubilee was a celebration of the things that bind us together as a nation

"The heritage of our past, the values of our present and the shared challenges of the future that lies ahead".

Fifty years ago British society was very different - deferential, hierarchical, inclined to accept unquestioningly the central role of the monarchy.

Diversity celebrated

These days many of the old certainties have been overturned. For a monarch who has spent decades seeking consensus, ruling a society with virtually no consensus about anything poses a real challenge. It is one the Queen and her advisors have met successfully and met head on.

Locals celebrate Queen Elizabeth IIs Golden Jubilee at a street party in the Village area of South Belfast
Locals hold street parties, mirroring those of 1977

They have chosen to acknowledge and celebrate difference.

In doing so they have found common ground between an older generation still comfortable with a traditional reverence for royalty and a younger generation who question its relevance.

They have sought to add to the Queen's traditional strength a touch of Diana's "touchy feely" agenda and Prince Charles's concern for the underprivileged and disadvantaged.

The Queen has visited post-industrial communities, like Easington Colliery, in County Durham.

For the first time she has visited a mosque and a Sikh temple in the UK as well as other non-Christian places of worship.

She has attended events and given speeches that celebrate the multicultural, multi-ethnic character of modern Britain.

Accessible monarch

And a monarch once seen as rather remote and austere has sought to show herself as accessible and inclusive in a way not traditionally associated with an older royal generation.

She has done this not least by throwing open the gardens of Buckingham Palace to 24,000 guests at the Jubilee concerts and by garden parties at her private house at Sandringham and Balmoral.

The monarchy as an institution and the Queen as an individual has emerged from this Jubilee stronger and more popular than for years.

Perhaps as she starts her traditional summer holiday in Scotland, the Queen will be wondering how to build on that success.

The BBC's Jennie Bond
"The Queen has travelled the length and breadth of her realm"

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See also:

31 Jul 02 | England
01 Aug 02 | England
07 Aug 02 | Scotland
05 Aug 02 | Scotland
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