the balcony -1-1654093161389
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II waves as she watches the flypast, with Prince Philip, to right, Prince William, centre, with his son Prince George, front, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge holding Princess Charlotte, centre left, with The Prince of Wales standing with The Duchess of Cornwall, and Princess Anne, fourth left, on the balcony during the Trooping The Colour parade at Buckingham Palace, in London, on June 11, 2016. Image Credit: AP

LONDON: From coronations to marriages, the Buckingham Palace balcony has been an essential part of the image of the British royal family for more than a century.

On Thursday, it will once again be in the spotlight as public events get under way to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

For the historic celebrations marking the 96-year-old monarch’s record-breaking 70 years on the throne, numbers on the balcony have been cut.

The queen has ordered that only “working royals” can appear to greet crowds at the culmination of the Trooping the Colour military parade.

In all, that means 18 people — fewer than in previous years — and in particular no Prince Harry or his wife Meghan, nor Prince Andrew.

Harry and Meghan quit as senior royals in early 2020 and moved to California, where they now live with their two young children.

Andrew, the queen’s second son, has kept a low profile since late 2019, after outrage at his defence of his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

He was then stripped of his honorary military titles and charitable duties earlier this year, just before he settled a US civil case for sexual assault.

After two difficult years for Britain’s most famous family, the message from the red and gold-draped balcony this week will be clear: No more drama.

Over the years, the balcony has become the shop window for the monarchy. Images of the monarch waving to the massed crowds below are beamed around the world.

Expos to war

Queen Victoria introduced the new way of greeting her subjects in 1851, for the opening of the Great Exhibition, a latter-day expo of culture and industry.

Seven years later, the family took up its position on the balcony for the wedding of the queen’s eldest daughter, also called Victoria, to the future king of Prussia.

On August 4, 1914, the crowd on The Mall outside the palace called for King George V after the country declared war on Germany.

In November 1918, thousands of Londoners cheered the king and queen after the armistice in front of the palace’s distinctive Portland stone facade.

In 1935, Princess Elizabeth, then aged just nine, waved to the crowd gathered for the 25th anniversary celebrations of her grandfather George V’s accession.

Two years later, she was on the balcony for the coronation of her own father, George VI.

On May 8, 1945, Prime Minister Winston Churchill joined the family to mark Victory in Europe Day, after Allied forces defeated Nazi Germany.

Princess Elizabeth was there again in 1947 after she married Prince Philip and then after her coronation as Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

the balcony-1654093156935
Britain's Queen waves from the balcony of Buckingham Palace, following her Coronation at Westminster Abbey, June 2, 1953. Also waving are Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother is seen far right. The balcony appearance is the centerpiece of almost all royal celebrations in Britain, a chance for the public to catch a glimpse of the family assembled for a grand photo to mark weddings, coronations and jubilees. Image Credit: AP

Monarchy on show

Nothing is left to chance in these high-profile appearances.

The queen is front and centre and typically wearing bright-coloured clothing. The highest-ranking men are usually in full military dress uniform. Women wear hats.

Sometimes history is made, such as when heir to the throne Prince Charles and his new bride, Princess Diana, kissed on the balcony after their wedding in 1981.

Andrew did the same after he married Sarah Ferguson in 1986, as did Charles and Diana’s eldest son, Prince William, following his marriage to Kate Middleton.

Yet it is not the sight of the family that matters.

“Throughout her reign, the queen has given precedence to the regal over family and personal considerations,” said royal author Marc Roche.

“For her, it’s essential to project the monarchy on the balcony, not the family,” he told AFP.

The queen, who has cut back her public appearances since last October and has difficulty standing and walking, is expected on the balcony on Thursday.

From there, she will watch the ceremonial fly-past of military aircraft which traditionally brings her official birthday celebrations to an end.

But she could also make a second appearance on Sunday with her three immediate successors — Charles, William and his eight-year-old son George.

The Daily Mirror said last week she “wants the world to see the heartbeat of her family and the future of the monarchy” — as long as she feels well enough.

“If we don’t see the queen over the jubilee, there’ll be millions of people disappointed,” The Sun’s veteran royal photographer Arthur Edwards told AFP.

“They come into London to see the concert and they are going to see the pageant but what they really want to see is the queen.”