LONDON — Finally, after 70 years, we now know what’s inside Queen Elizabeth II’s famous handbag: a stash of marmalade sandwiches.
The queen wasn’t at the concert. After experiencing “some discomfort” on the first day of jubilee celebrations — Brits are celebrating the jubilee from Thursday to Sunday — she pulled out of events on the second and third days.
But even if she wasn’t at the Saturday night concert in person, she was clearly the star of the show, demonstrating to the British public in a prerecorded sketch that she really does have a knack for comedy.
In the scene, the queen and Paddington Bear, a beloved fictional character in Britain, sit down at the palace for a cup of afternoon tea. It’s all very posh, white tablecloth and all, but things quickly go wrong for the accident-prone bear. A teapot goes flying, and a dessert is splattered on a butler’s face.
The bear then says to the queen: “Perhaps you’d like a marmalade sandwich. I always keep one for emergencies.”
“So do I,” confides the queen, who then opens her black handbag. “I keep mine in here,” she says, as she lifts a sandwich out of her bag, adding, “For later.”
They ended the skit by tapping the intro to “We Will Rock You” with their spoons on china teacups, which kicked off the live concert that featured the band Queen playing the same song.
It was not the first time the queen has revealed her comic talents to a large audience. She also had a star turn, along with her corgis, in a James Bond sketch for the Opening Ceremonies at the London Olympics. Many on social media on Saturday night debated which one was better.
The palace, which was clearly having some fun as well, said the queen felt that the opportunity to have Paddington around for tea was not to be missed.
The palace said in a statement: “Her Majesty is well known for her sense of humour, so it should be no surprise that she decided to take part in tonight’s sketch.”
“There was an interest in the filming and animation process and the opportunity to invite a famous bear to tea was just too much fun to miss,” it said.
The future king, Prince Charles, referenced the skit when he took the stage at the concert to pay tribute to his mother.
He began his speech with “Your Majesty, Mummy.” He delivered the same introduction at the queen’s golden and diamond jubilees, celebrating 50 and 60 years on the throne, respectively.
In an emotional tribute, Charles said his mother had “immense regret” that she was not at the concert in person. But, he said, she was “watching these celebrations with much emotion, having, I hope, finished her marmalade sandwich.”
He then urged the crowd to make some noise so that she might hear it from Windsor Castle, where she was watching the concert.
“Windsor Castle is barely 20 miles away, so if we cheer loudly enough, she might, might, just hear us. So let’s all join together,” Charles said. The crowd outside the palace roared.
Charles, who has recently filled in for his mother at major events she was unable to attend, said of the queen: “You pledged to serve your whole life — you continue to deliver. That is why we are here. That is what we celebrate tonight.”
As he was speaking, images of the queen were projected onto the facade of Buckingham Palace.
“You laugh and cry with us and, most importantly, you have been there for us, for these 70 years,” he said.
The 2½-hour event included performances by Diana Ross, Alicia Keys, Duran Duran, George Ezra and Sam Ryder. The show itself got mixed reviews from critics.
“It was pretty fabulous, and as slick in places as a Las Vegas residency — no typically British, bumbling-but-jolly performances here,” wrote India Knight in the Times of London. “But when all was said and done, it was the 96-year-old Queen who stole the show, despite not actually being there in person for last night’s Party at the Palace.”
The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis wondered if perhaps the queen was at home watching something else. The extravaganza was partly upstaged by Prince George, 8, and Princess Charlotte, 7, who looked “visibly bored senseless by the whole thing,” he wrote.
There were also prerecorded messages from a number of major figures, including Michelle Obama, who thanked the queen for “welcoming a nervous first lady to Buckingham Palace for the first time,” and actor Daniel Craig, who has played James Bond and who nodded at their Olympic skit together: “I will follow you anywhere, ma’am, out of any helicopter door.” When the crowd heard a message from naturalist David Attenborough, the wristbands they were given to wear flashed green.
Some of the queen’s speeches were played at the concert, including one for the climate conference in Glasgow last year.
When he took the stage, Prince William referenced environmental issues, saying: “It’s my firm hope that my grandmother’s words are as true in 70 years’ time as they are tonight, that as nations we come together in common cause, because then there is always room for hope.”
One of the most stunning moments came compliments of drones, which helped to light up the skies with a cup of tea, a handbag and “thank you, ma’am” messages.
And, of course, a floating corgi, the queen’s favorite dog.