Royal Barges and Special Events

Posted on June 1, 2012


This Sunday Queen Elizabeth II and selected members of her family will travel down the Thames in a flotilla of  vessels aboard a  barge called Spirit of Chartwell.  She may no longer have her yacht, Britannia, but she has use of both this and also her very own  new barge, Gloriana,  in time for her Diamond Jubilee.

At the heart of the celebrations will be a 1000-boat flotilla tribute to The Queen’s 60-year reign, which will take in 25 miles of Thames riverbank from Putney to Tower Bridge.

Separating the 10 sections of the seven-mile long water procession will be music herald barges, featuring contemporary and classical music, and including a number of specially commissioned premieres performed by ensembles including the Royal Jubilee Bells, Academy of Ancient Music, the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Queen herself will take part in the flotilla, greeting the crowds from her Royal Barge, The Spirit of Chartwell. A large red velvet banner, designed and hand-decorated with half a million gold buttons by artist and sculptor Ann Carrington, will adorn the stern of the Royal Barge. [see more photos here] and many more here

The other Royal Barge, named Gloriana by the Queen [left is the first Royal Barge built in 100 years. It will lead off the parade or follow Spirit of Chartwell.

About this Royal barge bit.  It has been going on for a couple of hundred years or more.  Perhaps the most famous Royal barge pageant was held on the Thames by King George I.  He comissioned  Frederick Handel to write some music to accompany the event and and the result has come down to us as a collection of orchestral movements known as Water Music.It premiered  17 July 1717.

The concert was performed by 50 musicians playing on a barge near the royal barge from which the King listened with close friends, including Anne Vaughan, the Duchess of Bolton, the Duchess of Newcastle, Countess of Darlington, the Countess of Godolphin, Madam Kilmarnock, and the Earl of Orkney. The barges, heading for Chelsea or Lambeth and leaving the party after midnight, used the tides of the river. George I was said to have enjoyed the suites so much that he made the exhausted musicians play them three times over the course of the outing.[Wickipedia]

Enjoy this baroque trumpet playing part I.

And here is a picture of the Royal Barge of George I

One last portion of this wonderful music.

Here is the oldest Royal Barge in existence, the state barge of  King Charles II.  Built ca 1670.

So enjoy the sights and sounds of Sunday’s celebration on the Thames.  It will be broadcast in the US.