A delighted Queen Elizabeth II took center stage at her historic Platinum Jubilee celebrations as she greeted crowds from the Buckingham Palace balcony, surrounded by her family.

Huge cheers erupted from the thousands of well-wishers packed in central London as the monarch emerged for the special flypast after a military parade, called the Trooping the Color, was held in her honor.

Wearing sunglasses, the 96-year-old sovereign looked joyful as she surveyed the patriotic scenes, giving broad smiles as she enjoyed the aircraft display overhead.

It was the second of two appearances from the monarch on the balcony on Thursday – the start of the special extended Jubilee four-day weekend marking her 70-year-reign.

Earlier, she received the a salute of her soldiers returning from Trooping the Color.

Eighteen royals including the queen stepped out to watch the high-profile flypast. Charles, Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, along with his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as well as William and Kate and their three children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis all flanked the monarch.

The queen leaned over to chat animatedly with her 4-year-old great-grandson Louis, who at one stage covered his ears, and reacted with his mouth wide open and eyes tightly shut as the aircraft thundered past the palace.

The six-minute flypast of more than 70 aircraft, including Apache helicopters, Typhoons and The Red Arrows, flew over the palace in central London.

Fifteen RAF Typhoons paid a special tribute to the monarch’s record-breaking reign, flying in the formation of the number 70, prompting smiles from the queen.

Dressed in a dusky dove blue Angela Kelly coat which she wore for her official Jubilee portrait, and matching hat, the queen was holding a walking stick and wearing the Guards’ Badge on her coat.

Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, were among the guests who earlier watched the Trooping the Color march from inside the Duke of Wellington’s former office that overlooks the parade ground.

They joined a host of more than 30 royals including Camilla and Kate and the queen’s extended family including all of her grandchildren.

It is believed to be the first time Kate and Meghan have met in person since the Sussexes left in 2020 for a new life in America.

The crowds were earlier treated to the sight of George, Charlotte and Louis with proud parent Kate and their step-grandmother Camilla in a carriage procession.

As the spectators waved at the young royals the trio waved back in their first major public outing for a Jubilee and first carriage procession.

The nation is embracing the special extended bank holiday weekend of pomp, pageantry and star-studded festivities, which will see celebrities and the public gather in their millions in tribute to the monarch.

Thousands of wellwishers draped in Union Jack flags, party hats and plastic tiaras flocked to London for the spectacle.

The queen limited those on the balcony for the flypast to working members of her family, her Cambridge great-grandchildren and two youngest grandchildren – a move she took after “careful consideration” the Palace said.

It meant there was no place for Harry and Meghan, who caused a royal crisis by quitting as senior royals, nor her disgraced second son the Duke of York.

Andrew, who paid millions to settle a civil sexual assault case, was also absent from the parade.

On the balcony with the Queen were: The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Princess Alexandra, the Duke of Kent, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, the Princess Royal, Charles and Camilla, William, Kate, George, Charlotte and Louis, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and their children Viscount Severn, and Lady Louise Windsor.

On Thursday evening, the Queen will lead the lighting of the principal Jubilee beacon in a special dual ceremony, with the monarch at Windsor Castle and her grandson William at the Palace.

It will form the focal point of more than 3,500 flaming tributes being set ablaze across the UK and the Commonwealth.

Jubilee activities with stretch across the weekend, including concerts, street parties and the Big Jubilee Lunch on Sunday.

Source: PA Media/dpa/MIA