06-08 Queen carriage illusion

[Image above] Archival footage of a young Queen Elizabeth II waving to the crowd during the People’s Pageant on June 5. An illusion technique called Pepper’s ghost was likely used to project the footage. Credit: Guardian News, YouTube

For the British royal family, this year marks a significant milestone for Queen Elizabeth II as she celebrates her platinum jubilee, the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne. While the anniversary officially occurred on February 6, celebrations took place during a special extended bank holiday this past weekend instead for several reasons.

Yet one person was noticeably absent during much of last week’s celebrations—the Queen. News outlets in recent months have reported that age is starting to catch up with her, and mobility issues have led her to pull out of many public events.

The Queen made her presence known at the celebrations in other ways, though, such as by appearing in a prerecorded short film alongside the animated character Paddington Bear.

Credit: The Royal Family, YouTube

The other appearance making headlines happened during the People’s Pageant on June 5. This pageant echoed the route of the coronation procession 70 years ago and was led by the 260-year-old golden carriage that the Queen rode to and from her coronation in 1953. As the carriage rolled by, the crowd was surprised to see a younger version of the 96-year-old monarch waving at them from the window!

Credit: Guardian News, YouTube

News outlets almost universally called this surprise appearance using archival footage a “hologram.” However, based on the video evidence available, this visual display was most likely a different type of illusion technique, a Gizmodo article contends.

Hologram refers specifically to 3D images that are formed by the interference of light beams from a laser or other coherent light source. While holograms do exist, commercialized versions only display static objects; systems for displaying dynamic scenes remain in development.

The Gizmodo article argues that, instead of a hologram, the Queen’s display is likely an example of a Pepper’s ghost. This illusion technique, popularized in the 1860s, gives the appearance of three dimensions by projecting bright light on the object you want to appear ghostly. This light is reflected onto a large piece of glass at an angle in front of the audience.

The video below provides a detailed look at the history of this technique and current uses, such as the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland.

Credit: Spencer Meyer, YouTube

Details of the display aside, the real-life Queen made sure to let everyone know that while she was not there physically, she was “humbled and deeply touched” to see how many people came to celebrate.

“While I may not have attended every event in person, my heart has been with you all; and I remain committed to serving you to the best of my ability, supported by my family,” she said in an official statement released on The Royal Family Twitter account.