The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant 2012

Thames Alive is proud to have initiated the idea for the River Thames to be the focal point for The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and to have been directly responsible for the organisation and management of the manpowered squadron of what became the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. This fine selection of 264 traditional boats, with the Queen’s Row Barge Gloriana at its head, preceded the Royal Barge and the flotilla of 700 powered vessels. It is fair to say that it was an amazing sight that captured the media’s attention and stole the show.

The Pageant was an extraordinary moment in the history of spectacular events on the River Thames. Apart from being the celebration centrepiece for The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, it demonstrated the majesty of the river and its huge potential for state occasions, sporting events and public pleasure. It was the supreme example of how the river both inspires and pulls together so many bodies and organisations involved with it, ‘bringing it magnificently alive’.

The flotilla was divided into ten squadrons, each representing different types of craft. Leading off were the 264 manpowered boats – rowed and paddled – setting the pace for the flotilla. Following behind, in order of departure, were the 54 Sea Cadet ‘Commonwealth boats’, the Royal Squadron; Dunkirk Little Ships; historic boats, service and working boats and barges, and Thames Passenger boats.

Leading the Manpowered Squadron, where boats had to maintain a steady four knots over the whole seven-mile route, came the Queen’s Row Barge Gloriana. This £1million Diamond Jubilee gift to the sovereign, and lasting legacy of the Jubilee, was inspired by the state barges and shallops of the 18th century Thames pageants. It is the first royal barge to be built in over a hundred years and the 18 oarsmen and women on 3 June, included Olympic gold medallists Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent.

Cheyne Walk

Malcolm Knight of Thames Alive was afloat as umpire for the Manpowered Squadron, which he choreographed to muster in Battersea Reach for Garrison Sergeant Major (WO1) Bill Mott, who is reputed to possess the most powerful voice in the British Army, to call Gloriana to order by barking at its crew to ‘toss oars’ in salute to Her Majesty. Like a Mexican wave each boat’s crew raised their oars as well, blades facing the Queen – and all gave three hearty cheers for Her Majesty before moving off downriver.

Following behind the gilded grandeur of Gloriana was the Jubilant, the replica of an 18th century ceremonial shallop that was built to commemorate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. Both the Jubilant and Gloriana were built to traditional methods by Mark Edwards at Richmond.

Off Jubilant’s starboard was The Royal Thamesis, resplendent in her white blue and gold livery, and close by was the Lady Mayoress and Rose-in-June, then came Thames Watermen Cutters, including Paul Satow, Belle Founder, Class Leader and Trinity Tide, and Thames skiffs like Iona, and Bilbo, skerrys, gigs, Explore Rowing boats, including the impressive Rheingauner, dragons, gondolas, Hawaiian war canoes and kayaks. Two hundred and sixty four boats in all, each and everyone with its own story to tell. Collectively, and in scenes reminiscent of Canaletto’s painting The Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day Looking Towards the City and St Paul’s Cathedral they reminded us that with the enthusiasm and dedication of their crews the Thames can be relied upon to add majesty to any royal and state occasion.

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An open letter from Peter Warwick, chairman of Thames Alive, to all who took part in the Manpowered Squadron

May I on behalf of Thames Alive, and therefore Malcolm Knight, Roger Mutton and Stuart Wolff, offer you our considerable thanks for your enthusiasm, support and the important role you played in helping Thames Alive manage the Manpowered Squadron for The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3 June.

What a wonderful and memorable day it was for us all. In spite of the less than welcome weather it was stunning success. The Manpowered Squadron certainly captured the media’s attention. Based on the photographs in the press one could be forgiven for thinking that few other boats had taken part! Together we created what has been justly described as the ‘Canaletto moment’! Thames Alive first sowed the seeds for a royal river progress four years ago and it was a genuine thrill to actually see the river being used in such a spectacular and sensational way. The Pageant has enhanced the Thames’ special place in the life of the capital and beyond, and thanks to you the appearance of the Manpowered Squadron will help to promote rowing and paddling, and the better use of the Thames generally.

Thames Alive is now arranging the passage of the Olympic Flame from Hampton Court Palace to The Pool of London on 27 July, after which we shall continue to work closely with the TTRA, PLA and other friends to create distinctive river events. We are not short of ideas!

However, that is for the future. For now we renew our appreciation to you. Thank you so much.

With kindest regards and best wishes,



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Magna Carta
Diamond Jubilee Pageant
Olympic Torch Relay

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