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Comment 12 JUNE 2012

Your Diamond Jubilee: Insider accounts of history in the making

12 JUNE 2012

The Diamond Jubilee celebrations gave the nation four unforgettable days.

From the magnificent Thames Pageant to the finale on the Buckingham Palace balcony, there's no shortage of memories to cherish for the millions who lined the streets.

But for those who played a pivotal role in ensuring the event was a success, the Jubilee holds extra significance.

HELLO! talks to those who had a front row seat to history in the making.

 

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Alex Owen is the 26-year-old captain of the Blues and Royals Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, and the man who co-ordinated the horse procession that lead the monarch's progression to Buckingham Palace from Westminster Hall.

"Even though I'm still hoarse, I felt enormously proud to be taking part in one of the defining days of the 21st century.

As the Division Commander, I rode up front and shouted the words of command triggering every precise movement.

The best moment was definitely when I shouted at the top of my lungs: "Number 2 Division, form the Escort. March!". When I gave the command, we kicked straight into trot and the crowd started going wild.


 

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It was an incredibly physical experience. It felt a lot like a rugby match where so much is going on so fast but you just zone into your job and get stuck in.

The enduring memory for me was when we had survived the gauntlet and formed up in the Buckingham Palace forecourt.

Seeing the Queen there looking so pleased as the sweat dripped down our backs and knowing we had done a good job was amazing. It made all the hard work worth it."


Naomi Spencer is a young single mum who turned her life around by launching a successful business with help from Prince Charles' charity, The Prince's Trust. She was invited to read a prayer during the thanksgiving ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral.

"Watching so many people come together to celebrate the same thing was great, it's not every day that happens.

I had to be at the Cathedral by 9.30am. We had to wait almost an hour until the royal family arrived. In that time, the nerves and excitement began to build.

 

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But once everyone arrived and I took my place on the podium, I was calm and collected and delivered the prayer just as I would any other inspirational speech at the Prince's Trust. 

The Duchess of Cambridge was absolutely gorgeous. And I thought the Queen looked sad.

In rehearsals the previous day, two chairs were set aside at the head of the church, one for the Queen and one for Prince Philip.

On the day, that obviously didn't happen. And although I don't know the Queen, you couldn't help notice her sadness."


Barnardo's Chief Executive Anne Marie Carrie attended Buckingham Palace's star-studded concert alongside the Duchess of Cornwall, who is President of the children’s welfare charity. She was witness to the magic that unfolded that night.

"The Jubilee concert was amazing. My daughter Helena and I were introduced to Prince Andrew and Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, who are just lovely.

I spoke with the Duchess of Cornwall, who is our president. Some of the children we work with had been invited to the concert and were so excited. She was pleased to hear that they were enjoying themselves.


 

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The highlight of our night was meeting Tom Hanks and his wife Rita – Hollywood royalty! We were sat with them during the show and it was just fantastic to be singing and bopping away with them.

It was a special night, we were very privileged to be there. The atmosphere was something I will never forget."


Press Association's royal photographer John Stillwell had the enviable position of accompanying Her Majesty on the Royal Barge during the Thames River Pageant.

"Being invited to go aboard the Royal Barge was such a privilege. Hearing everyone singing God Save the Queen – it will stay with me all my life.

Aboard the barge there were ferocious winds and it was so cold, yet the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh refused to sit on their thrones. They stood the whole way round.


 

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The family seemed to absolutely love the day. I saw the Duke of Cambridge pointing things out along the river to his grandmother which she chuckled at.

I honestly think the Queen will do this again in ten years' time. I think she will live to a ripe old age."


Dunkirk veteran Vic Viner is thought to have been the oldest participant in the Thames Pageant and the last survivor of the Royal Navy’s rescue operation from Dunkirk. He was in the flotilla on Nyula, one of the Dunkirk Little Ships.

"One of the best moments for me was passing the Royal Barge and saluting Her Majesty – although I couldn't see her, as my glasses were covered with rain.

 

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It was a wonderful pageant and a very proud moment for me, as of course I should be dead by now!

The big thrill for me was when we passed under the bridges, as people could see who I was, sitting at the back as a veteran.

I got great big cheers and, when we got close to the bank, they saw me and cheered. I put my thumb up as much to say: 'We're here!' "


Michael Lakin masterminded the spectacular fireworks display over Buckingham Palace that marked the end of the Jubilee Concert.

"Buckingham Palace had become a home from home for me in the week before the big day. We built special platforms to carry the huge fireworks and stop them from making holes in the roof of the Palace.

 

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With fireworks, there is no chance of a dress rehearsal – it's always very nerve-wracking when you’re about to press the button to set them off.

I couldn't enjoy any of the concert because I was too nervous about whether everything was going to come off.

It was a huge relief when the fireworks were lit and I could actually see what I had envisaged had come off."

Interviews by: Andrea Maltman, Danielle Lawler, Jane Dowdeswell, Rosalind Powell and Sophia Bedow.

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