Beacons Lit Across British Commonwealth to Honor Queen

Posted June 4th, 2012 at 11:10 am (UTC-5)
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Thousands of beacons will be lit across Britain and the Commonwealth in commemoration of Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee marking her 60th year on the throne.

The first beacons were set alight in New Zealand and Tonga. Some 4,000 will be lit at 10:00 pm local time in other Commonwealth countries and across England. The 86-year-old monarch will light the final beacon during an evening concert in front of Buckingham Palace featuring Elton John and Paul McCartney.

Other performers at the event include Stevie Wonder and Gary Barlow, frontman for the group, Take That, who co-wrote a song for the jubilee with theater composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The four-day celebration concludes Tuesday with the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, attending a Thanksgiving service at St. Paul's Cathedral. The royal family will make a balcony appearance at Buckingham Palace Tuesday afternoon, wrapping up the festivities.

On Sunday, more than a million people lined the banks of the River Thames to see a flotilla of more than 1,000 boats escort the queen and the royal family in a water pageant.

Elizabeth succeeded her father King George after his death in 1952 and was crowned queen of seven Commonwealth countries — the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka — the following year.

Along with Britain, the monarch is the head of state of 16 other nations, known as realms. Her role is purely ceremonial. She is also head of the Commonwealth, an organization that rose from the ashes of Britain's empire. Most of its 53 member countries are former colonies.