A week of royal celebrations I will never forget - Lord Lieutenant
AS the Queen's representative in Bristol, you might expect Lord Lieutenant Mary Prior MBE to have had a busy week – but she says it's one she will never forget.
It began with Mrs Prior travelling to London to witness the spectacle of the Thames Pageant on Sunday.
"It was absolutely wonderful to see it," Mrs Prior said. "It was well worth getting soaked to the skin for!"
Mrs Prior viewed the flotilla as a guest aboard Bristol's own recreation of John Cabot's ship, The Matthew.
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"I couldn't have chosen a better place to be," she said. "The Matthew was, of course, too tall to take part in the actual flotilla – so it was one of the tallships that made up the so-called Avenue of Sail beyond Tower Bridge.
"In fact, we were in pride of place beside Tower Bridge, directly opposite HMS President, the naval base from where the Queen watched the climax of the pageant.
"The weather was absolutely dreadful I'm afraid, and we did get very wet, but after a while we completely forgot about the rain, because the spectacle of the flotilla was so overwhelming."
But the end of the pageant merely marked the beginning of Mrs Prior's diamond jubilee festivities.
She returned to Bristol on Sunday night in order to attend the jubilee celebrations on the Downs on Monday.
"That was a fabulous occasion," she said. "So many people turned out – there must have been four or five thousand there to mark the jubilee.
"It was just so lovely to see so many young families enjoying the festivities, and of course we were blessed with some sunshine that day."
The event culminated in Mrs Prior being invited to light the city's jubilee beacon at 10pm.
"That was quite something," Mrs Prior said. "I've never been asked to light a beacon before, and it's such an impressive thing to see it flare up.
"Beacons are such a lovely symbol of unity between communities across the country – the idea is that you light one when you can see the neighbouring one lit. There was a real sense of being part of the whole country's celebrations.
"But of course our own lovely Bristol did us all proud – hosting more diamond jubilee street parties than any other city outside London. That's something we should be very proud of, I think."
With the beacon lit, Mrs Prior hopped on to another late-night train to London, in order to be at St Paul's Cathedral early on Tuesday morning to attend the service of thanksgiving for the Queen's 60-year reign.
"That too was a very special occasion," she said. "It was wonderful to be there, with St Paul's looking so spectacular, the music so moving, and it was really quite touching to see Her Majesty marking the occasion, sadly without the Duke of Edinburgh, who had by then been admitted to hospital.
"Afterwards I went to another very special event, a reception at the Guildhall to celebrate the jubilee, before returning to Bristol in order to be able to plant a Jubilee Oak on Brandon Hill on Wednesday morning.
"It really has been a wonderful few days, and I consider myself so blessed to have been able to see so much of the celebrations," Mrs Prior said. "It's still by no means over, as we have the Jubilation Bristol celebratory concert at the Colston Hall on June 9, and our own service of thanksgiving at Bristol Cathedral on June 17."