To all our English-speaking readers, the Belem Foundation is proud and happy to announce that the three masted barque Belem, doyenne of Europe's fleet of tall ships, has been invited by Queen Elizabeth II to take part in the celebrations of the Royal Diamond Jubilee that mark the 60th anniversary of her reign.
On this historic occasion, one of the most spectacular nautical parades ever seen on the Thames will take place between Hammersmith and Greenwich on June 3rd 2012. Aboard the Royal Barge, Her Majesty will be heading an impressive pageant of ships that hail from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.
Belem, a French ship and long living symbol of France's naval history and traditions, has been chosen by the Queen to welcome aboard members of the Royal entourage together with other honourable guests and offer them a privileged viewpoint on the naval parade. The ship will be moored at Chambers Wharf, opposite the Tower of London.
Understanding why the British take such pleasure in seeing Belem sail on British waters means taking a look back on the ship's history. On the eve of the First World War, Belem began sailing under British colours. During thirty six years, she belonged successively to two illustrious families: the Duke of Westminster then the Honourable Arthur Ernest Guinness moulded her new image and made her into the ship we still see today. By embellishing and modernising her, they contributed to the survival and very distinctive elegance of a ship that is now classified as an historical monument.
Being part of this grand nautical parade is a great honour for Belem, who will be flying the colours of the Royal Yacht Squadron, as she did when owned by the Westminster and Guinness families, as well as that of the Marquess of Salisbury, President of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Foundation, who will be present on board. “To be aboard a French sailing ship for this event, says Lord Salisbury, will be symbolic of the Franco-British friendship that we will be proud to celebrate”.
All in all, there is a busy and exciting schedule ahead for our venerable three mastered ship:
- Channel crossing on March 30th: Belem leaves Calais for London. On board will be a group of journalists and younger members of the Royal Family; they will learn about the intricacies of sailing a 19th Century tall ship under the command of Yannick Simon as they head for the Thames and Tower Bridge.
- Arrival on March 31st at Chambers Wharf: in the evening, the French Ambassador Bernard Emié will host a reception on board. His guests will discover Belem and watch a rehearsal of the parade on the Thames.
- On June 1st Belem will be greeting aboard a group of London schoolchildren and their French correspondents taking part in an international programme, “Rivers of the World”, initiated by the British Council and the French Institute.
- On June 3rd, the climax of the trip: the river parade, the biggest event organised on the Thames in the last 350 years. Millions of people will be there to see the Queen heading a pageant of hundreds of ships aboard her Royal Barge and going past Belem as she will near the end of her 25 mile long journey down the river.
Belem will head back towards the French coast and Le Havre on June 5th but she will soon be back in British waters: 50 days later, she will return to London to witness her very first Olympic Games!
Illustration de Joshua Knowles pour le Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant