The Queen narrowly escaped death this afternoon when falling overboard from the Thames cruiser Spirit of Chartwell during today's Royal Jubilee river pageant.
The incident occurred as the boat, converted into a barge for the day, went underneath Blackfriars Bridge. Apparently the glove of the royal right hand she was waving then became snared by the noose of an old rope, believed to have been left hanging down from under the bridge since 1982, causing Her Majesty to be pulled from the boat into the river. Crowds of cheering spectators only realised she'd gone overboard when they saw the boat reappear as it came out at the other side of the bridge and saw Her Majesty frantically trying to grab hold of a lifebelt a member of the crew had thrown to her from the boat.
Despite managing to reach the lifebelt and then placing it over her head, the weight of the gold jewellery she was wearing soon dragged both her and the lifebelt underwater leaving hundreds of spectators looking on in horror as they saw her vanish beneath the murky waters of the river leaving them with what seemed certain to be one final royal wave from Her Majesty's right hand.
But it was then that one of the oarsmen on the 88ft brand new Royalbarge Gloriana just ahead decided to dive into the river and come to her rescue. After disappearing below the water for almost two minutes he then re-emerged to wild cries of 'hoorah' from the crowds of spectators with Her Majesty clinging to the oarsman's back. Crew members of Spirit of Chartwell then quickly managed to drag Her Majesty back onto the boat.
Prince Philip admitted later he'd not been aware she'd even been in the water until it was all over, explaining that at the time of the incident he'd been looking out across the river from the other side of the boat just passing the time firing off his shotgun at the various river birds flying about.
"I only realised my old cabbage had been in the bloody river when I saw her standing on the deck drenched from head to toe and then saw her spit out a couple of small fish," he admitted later after stepping off from Spirit of Chartwell at the end of the rainy royal river outing.
"She's none the worse for her ordeal," he said. "In any case the whole bloody lot of us got soaking wet out there today in that awful weather. Nothing a few brandies won't sort out, and we're all having a jolly good laugh about it now that we've dried ourselves out. All water under the bridge and best forgotten," he said, though added sternly, "Of course, that rower chap who dived in will have to be severely reprimanded for deserting his post."