Embassy marks Queen’s jubilee with garden party
The United Kingdom began celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in style with a four-day weekend that kicked off on Saturday (local time) and included a flotilla of 1,000 boats sailing down the River Thames in London the following day.
The river pageant, the likes of which have not been seen since the reign of Charles II over three centuries ago, was followed by a pop concert beamed live from Buckingham Palace on Monday featuring music legends such as Paul McCartney and Elton John. A thanksgiving service was scheduled to be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the British capital today.
The festivities mark 60 years since Elizabeth II ascended to the throne, a monumental anniversary for a monarch and only the second time it has happened in British history. Queen Victoria previously ruled for 63 years.
However, the celebrations were not limited to the U.K. and the Commonwealth. The British Embassy in central Seoul held a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee garden party ahead of time on May 24, attended by 400 politicians, diplomats, officers and educators. Attendees included former Korean Ambassador to the U.K. Chun Yung-woo and new Saenuri Party Representative Jasmine Lee.
“The Queen has given 60 years of unstinting service to the people of Britain and the Commonwealth,” said Scott Wightman, the British ambassador to Seoul.
He highlighted exchanges between the British monarch and Korea during her reign, stating that she ascended to the throne during the 1950-53 Korean War and paid a state visit to Korea 20 years ago “to symbolize the very close and friendly relations between Britain and Korea.” In 2004, the queen hosted the late President Roh Moo-hyun in England during his state visit to the U.K.
Elizabeth II rose to the throne on Feb. 8, 1952, with her coronation taking place on June 2 of the following year.
At the embassy in Seoul, guests were greeted by a Scottish bagpiper. They also sang the national anthem of both countries and raised a toast to the Queen.
“It is very rare to get to witness a monarch celebrate their Diamond Jubilee anywhere in the world,” former Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo said in his congratulatory address at the event. “In the history of the British monarchy, only one other ruler, Queen Victoria, enjoyed this honor in 1897. In Korean history, we also have two examples - King Taejo and King Jangsu - of rulers who reached this landmark.”
Both ruled during the Goguryeo Dynasty, the former from 53 to 146 and the latter from 413-91.
The embassy also held a Diamond Jubilee charity ball at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on May 26, donating proceeds to local charities that support people with AIDS and HIV, as well as people with disabilities.
Ahead of the reception and ball, Wightman held a press briefing at his residence on May 21 marking six months since he took the post as well as the 100-day countdown to the London Olympics in July.
He said this was shaping up to be an exciting summer for London with the Summer Games kicking off for a third time on July 27 and a raft of celebrations set to continue throughout the year in honor of the Diamond Jubilee. The Olympic Torch procession began on May 19.
The ambassador said the embassy’s top priority in terms of bilateral ties is to maximize the economic potential of Britain’s relations with Korea “to ensure that we are getting the best opportunities out of the free trade agreement with the European Union.”
“There’s an exciting opportunity for Korean and British companies to work in third country markets,” he said. “A good example of this is [Korea Electric Power Corp’s] contract for building a nuclear power station in Abu Dhabi. We’ve already got seven British companies working with Kepco and its Korean partners on delivering that project.”
By Sarah Kim [email@example.com]