The Queen symbolically lit a chain of Platinum Jubilee beacons stretching around the world in her honour tonight in a touching ceremony at Windsor Castle.
Putting her mobility issues to one side, the 96-year-old monarch made a third public appearance of the day to launch more than 3,500 flaming tributes to her 70-year reign by laying her hand on a specially created glittering Commonwealth of Nations globe.
The event formed part of a special dual ceremony with her grandson the Duke of Cambridge, waiting 22 miles away at Buckingham Palace where the beacon centrepiece – a 21-metre living ‘Tree of Trees’ sculpture – was subsequently illuminated in lights on the Queen’s command.
The monarch was greeted in the castle Quadrangle with a fanfare by the State Trumpeters at the Sovereign’s Entrance, close to her private apartments, at 9.30pm.
She was accompanied by her private secretary, Sir Edward Young, Lady-in-Waiting Lady Susan Hussey and equerry Lt Colonel Tom White of the Royal Marines.
Around 130 members of the Windsor Castle community who had gathered to watch the ceremony greeted the monarch, some waving flags.
The Queen touches the Commonwealth Nations Globe to start the lighting of the Principal Beacon outside of Buckingham Palace in London, from the Quadrangle at Windsor Castle
Prince William pictured smiling as he attended the Lighting Of The Principal Beacon at Buckingham Palace this evening
The ‘Tree Of Trees’, created by Designer Thomas Heatherwick, at The Principal Beacon at Buckingham Palace
The Commonwealth of Nations Globe – a blue globe, which sits inside a silver crown on a blue and gold cushion – was specially created for the Beacons project and was placed on a podium by five Yeoman Warders, led by Chief Yeoman Warder Peter McGowran.
It was created as a symbol representing The Queen’s previous Jubilees and includes elements of silver, gold, diamonds and platinum.
The stones in the Crown signify the coming together of the four nations of the United Kingdom in celebration of the Jubilee and were collected from the top of the four highest peaks – Mount Snowdon, Wales; Ben Nevis, Scotland; Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland, and Scafell Pike, England.
The queen, wearing a jade green Stuart Pravin crepe coat with a printed silk dress in shades of jade and taupe, walked slowly and slightly gingerly using her by now familiar walking stick.
She sported a special new Platinum Jubilee brooch commissioned by the Goldsmiths’ Company as a gift to Her Majesty The Queen to mark her 70 years of service.
The brooch was inspired by the four nations which make up the UK, which are represented by four diamond swirls and the national flowers: the rose, the thistle, the daffodil and the shamrock.
It also includes the lily of the valley, one of her favourite flowers and used in her Coronation bouquet.
As the sovereign placed her finger on the globe, bright white lights raced along the Quadrangle towards Windsor’s famous Round Tower, before – by the magic of technology – travelling up the Tree of Trees in London.
Sir Nicholas Bacon, Prince William and Designer Thomas Heatherwick speak during the event
The ‘Tree Of Trees’ created by Designer Thomas Heatherwick ahead of The Lighting Of The Principal Beaco
Large television screens showed her the scene at her official residence where her grandson was representing her and she watched them intently.
Although it was a short ceremony, lasting less than 10 minutes, it was late due to the need for it to be dusk and came at the end of an extremely long and gruelling day for the elderly and increasingly frail monarch.
Afterwards she turned and walked slowly down the red carpet that had been laid across the gravel, extremely carefully, step by step.
When she was on the more even surface of the flagstones she picked up pace, stopping briefly to acknowledge some of the Windsor Castle residents who had come out to see her, who curtseyed and bowed .
Beacons will now be lit throughout the UK and across the Commonwealth, and sites including the Tower of London, Windsor Great Park, Hillsborough Castle and the Queen’s estates of Sandringham and Balmoral, and on top of the UK’s four highest peaks.
The first beacons will be lit in Tonga and Samoa in the South Pacific, and the final one in the central American country of Belize.
The Tree of Trees in London is part of the nationwide Queen’s Green Canopy project to create a ‘living legacy’ to the monarch by encouraging communities to plant thousands of new trees.
Placing the ‘Tree of Trees’ at the heart of the beacon lighting reflects the Royal Family’s long history of championing environmental causes and will pay a fitting tribute to Her Majesty’s 70 years of service to the nation.
The Queen was joined by Bruno Peek, who has overseen the Jubilee Beacons celebration.
A picture of the Queen is projected onto the front of Buckingham Palace ahead of the beacon lighting ceremony
Gregory Porter performs during The Lighting Of The Principal Beacon at Buckingham Palace this evening
Speaking before the lighting he said: ‘The main thing for the beacons is recognising Her Majesty the Queen has been a beacon of light for not just the UK and Commonwealth but I personally believe she has been a beacon for the world.
‘She always led from the front and that’s one of the reasons we wanted to make this worldwide by having beacons lit in capital cities of all the Commonwealth countries to recognise the amazing job she has done for 70 years.’
After the beacon lighting Prince William watched as the London Community Gospel Choir and singer Gregory Porter sang the official Beacons song, A Life Lived with Grace, in honour of Her Majesty The Queen.
More than three thousand Beacons will be lit by charities, community and faith groups throughout the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Overseas Territories.
Beacons will also be lit by groups and young leaders throughout all 54 Commonwealth countries including cities, capitals, across five continents, to celebrate The Queen’s service to the people of the Commonwealth.