LONDON - Huge crowds waving Union Jack flags massed Thursday near Buckingham Palace as royals took part in a parade for the start of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

During the queen’s Birthday Parade, the Trooping the Colour, crowds could see Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis sitting together in a horse-drawn open-top carriage, waving at crowds. George, the eldest and third in line for the throne, wore a dark suit and tie, while Louis wore a sailor suit and Charlotte wore a blue dress.

Sitting opposite them were the children’s mother, Kate, in a white tailored outfit and black and white straw hat, and their grandfather Charles’ wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, in a striped jacket, light blue hat and tartan skirt.

Some royal fans had spent the night in tents just to secure a spot outside Buckingham Palace to see the carriages and the queen emerge onto the balcony in a long-anticipated moment, wearing a light blue suit and hat. “It’s probably going to be the only time -- or one of the only times -- that the queen is going to be able to do this,” said Paul Fletcher, 55, who works for the National Health Service and had come with his family. “It’s been 70 years on the throne for the queen. It’s never been known before and I don’t think it would ever happen again.”

Kimber Beasley from the United States called the queen “a great example” for America and the whole world. “It’s a part of history. How many times you get to see this?” she said. Along the parade’s route on The Mall, Union flags hung over the crowd barriers or stuck jauntily from headbands, while some fans wrapped themselves in the flag and painted it on their cheeks with face paint. Some wore T-shirts in the red, white and blue national colours or sequinned tops. Liam Roddis, a 49-year-old operations manager for a local authority in northern England, opted for a total look with a Union Jack flag suit.

“I’m here for the queen,” he said, calling himself “dead proud to be British, dead proud that she’s my queen -- for however much longer she is.” In the throng, many had little view of events but said this did not matter. “We can’t see anything but we just wanted to be part of it,” said Hilary Matthews, a 70-year-old retired nurse in a Union Jack bowler hat. For 61-year-old tree surgeon David Hare, the event was a moment of joy after grim world events.

He said he has come out for all the royal weddings, too, sometimes sleeping outside the night before.

“I think it’s just great to have a celebration out there for the next four days... to forget about all those things for the day,” he said, citing “Covid and this sad, sad war in Ukraine”. The best view was enjoyed by those in the seated stands -- with tickets allocated by a ballot. Among these were 65-year-old Gilbert Falconer, who had come with his wife from Scotland after striking lucky in the national ballot.

“It’s like winning the lottery for me,” said the ambulance service worker.

“We just want to show our appreciation for what she has done for this country,” Falconer said of the queen.

“She’s done such an amazing job through her reign.”