From Queen Elizabeth and Olympic glory to James Bond and The Bard, 2012 is a year for festive celebrations as England honors its royals, writers and heroes–past and present. Whether you are a Downton Abbey fan, budding Anglophile or cultural connoisseur, England has something for everyone and there is no better time to cross the pond and enjoy the fun.
1. 60 Years on the Throne: The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. June 2-5, 2012
Queen Elizabeth II has reigned for 60 years and England is awash in revelry. However, the “don’t miss” celebration for the beloved monarch is a special four-day June weekend bash in London. Official events include a massive flotilla of 1,000 boats traveling down the River Thames led by the Queen herself, and a BBC concert at Buckingham Palace featuring Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney. A network of over 2,000 beacons will also be lit throughout the UK and Commonwealth. For more details – Visit England.
2. Let the Games Begin: London 2012: Summer Olympic Games July 27-August 12, 2012 & Paralympic Games through September 9, 2012
The game’s afoot as the world’s sporting elite converge on the Olympic Village in London and selected UK locales to compete in this summer’s Olympics. Spectators can choose from 26 sports and cheer on over 10,000 athletes. The Paralympic games will feature 20 sports and 4,200 athletes. When you are ready to leave the playing fields, dive into some of the cultural activities billed under the banner of “London 2012 Festival.” A vast consortium of events to suit every taste from food, art, music, theater, fashion and dance, the Festival has venues throughout London and the UK. For more information on the Festival and Olympics visit London 2012.com.
3. License to Thrill: James Bond’s 50th Anniversary
It has been 50 years since Sean Connery first captivated movie audiences as “Bond…James Bond” in Dr. No. The super spy with a license to kill and “gadgets, girls and guns” proved to have staying power and box office clout. A 23rd film, Skyfall, is set for release in November 2012 with Daniel Craig as Bond. The National Motor Museum in Beaulieu is toasting the franchise with the largest collection of 007 vehicles ever parked under one roof in “Bond in Motion” on display through December 2012. Just beware of poison pens and ejector seats. Note: Beaulieu has been in the family of Lord Montagu since 1538 and worth a visit. You can stroll the magnificent Palace House (one of the Treasure Houses of England-think Downton Abbey) the 13th historic Beaulieu Abbey and spacious gardens. For more information visit Beaulieu.
4. Medieval Majesty: The City of York turns 800
A vibrant jewel in the northern county of Yorkshire, the medieval city of York is throwing itself a year-long party to celebrate its 800th anniversary of being granted a Royal Charter as a city by King John (of Magna Carta fame). A trip through its cobblestoned streets is a treat any time but this fabled city of festivals is planning a special summer of events. Charter weekend starts July 9th with the Festival of the Rivers, concerts and museum exhibitions. Note: The popular York Cycle of Mystery Plays starts in August. For more information visit York 800.com.
5. All the World’s a Stage: World Shakespeare Festival April 23 through November 2012
William Shakespeare is often referred to as the world’s playwright and no less than 70 productions are being planned by the Royal Shakespeare Company to commemorate him. Drawing on artists from around the globe the festival is an unprecedented in its scope and cross-cultural collaborations. Note: Try to see a production at Shakespeare’s Globe on the bank of the River Thames. It is the closest you will come to stepping back 400 years. The British Museum in London is also presenting an exhibit called Shakespeare: Staging the World July 19-November 25, 2012 which explores London 400 years ago, and the role of playwrights in presenting the world outside its gates. For more information visit World Shakespeare Festival.org.uk
England 2012: Milestones of Note
-QUEEN ELIZABETH II RULES FOR 60 YEARS
-CHARLES DICKENS 200TH BIRTHDAY
-JAMES BOND MOVIE FRANCHISE TURNS 50
-100 YEARS SINCE THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC
-KATHERINE PARR’S (HENRY VIII’S LAST WIFE) 500TH BIRTHDAY
-THE SANDWICH TURNS 250
-YORK CELEBRATES 800 YEARS AS A CITY
-150 YEARS SINCE ALICE IN WONDERLAND