Spitfires And Parade Mark Queen's Diamond Jubilee

By: CNN Posted By: Stephanie Schultz
By: CNN Posted By: Stephanie Schultz

LONDON (CNN) -- Thousands of members of the British Armed Forces took part in a parade and flypast at Windsor Castle Saturday as part of celebrations to mark Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years on the throne.

World War II era Spitfires and Lancaster bombers, helicopters and Tornado fighters were among the 78 aircraft to soar overhead as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee tribute.

The flypast also featured Hawks flying in a formation to represent the Queen's initials and Tucanos flying in a "60" formation for the length of her reign.

On the ground, some 2,500 military personnel from the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force paraded past the Queen, who was colorfully dressed in blue, in a specially built arena in the castle grounds.

Speaking at the event, Gen. Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, said the three branches of the Armed Forces took great pride in marking the jubilee.

"The Queen's deep interest and commitment to the Armed Forces has touched many Servicemen and women and their families over the past 60 years," he said.

"I know I speak for all those who have the privilege to wear her uniform, when I offer my heartfelt thanks to Her Majesty for her dedication to the Armed Forces, and to our country."

The Queen was joined in the audience by Prince Philip and other members of the British royal family, as well as more than 3,000 military personnel, veterans and their families.

Monarchs from Denmark, Brunei, Lesotho, Norway, Sweden, Swaziland and Tonga were among a number of foreign royals to attend.

The military parade and flypast are the first major national event to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, the Ministry of Defence said.

The central weekend of celebrations comes in early June, when the Queen will take part in concerts and a pageant involving more than 1,000 boats on the River Thames.

The Queen hosted a lunch on Friday at Windsor Castle to which every monarch in the world was invited, also as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall also hosted a dinner at Buckingham Palace on Friday evening for some of the royals.

Human rights campaigners criticized the decision to include monarchs of countries with a poor record on human rights in Friday's events.

Among those they highlighted were the king of Bahrain, whose government has come under fire for its handling of continuing unrest, and Swaziland's King Mswati III, accused by critics of enjoying a lavish lifestyle at public expense while his people suffer great poverty.

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