Splashdown! Queen Elizabeth's Flotilla Took a Nose Dive

The Royal Barge (in rear, in red and gilt) and her cortege. But didn't it all seem rather ordinary—just a bunch of boats going really slowly together?

Photo: Matt Writtle

After the fairy-tale wedding of the pauper and the prince, I was kind of psyched for the Elizabeth flotilla. Reading about it in the papers beforehand, I pictured all these amazing boats slashing back and forth across the river. But Sunday’s Diamond Jubilee river parade for Queen Elizabeth II was such a downer.

Whereas the Royal Wedding moved swiftly and deftly from moment to moment, with beautifully edited cuts that gave you both the grandeur and intimacy of the event, the flotilla was ponderous, boring, and horribly presented for television viewing.

The big news? Everyone stayed exactly in order and maintained a perfect snail’s pace, partially to allow the poor rowboats to keep up. Did anyone besides me think that having all those people rowing for the queen seemed a bit imperial?

I asked Kelly Wright, a London friend who dined at a river restaurant to take in the scene firsthand. What did she think of the royal barge? “It was like a garish Chinese restaurant,“ she said. “It reminded me of that floating Dumbo restaurant in Hong Kong—all that red carpet and stemmy flowers.”

And my other London spy reported, “The whole thing was a bit of a snooze. Kind of like a boat trip around Manhattan—starts off fun, everyone's excited, taking pictures, and then there's only so much one can take before it gets terrifically boring.”

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