LONDON (AP) - There were six figures on the balcony, three generations of royalty - and one large absence.
Queen Elizabeth II's appearance at Buckingham Palace with her family on Tuesday capped a triumphant Diamond Jubilee weekend for a British monarchy that has overcome years of crisis and seems secure in its subjects' hearts.
But the absence of 90-year-old Prince Philip - hospitalized Monday with a bladder infection - was a poignant reminder the queen's 60-year reign won't last forever. And the presence of divisive heir to the throne Prince Charles alongside the wildly popular Prince William and his wife Catherine hinted at an uncertain future.
"What we forget is that monarchy is just the people doing the job," said royal historian Robert Lacey. "In a sense this jubilee looks to the future rather sadly. It could be the queen's last jubilee, and it is a jubilee in which she has relegated many of her public duties" to younger family members.
Yet the royal family will be overjoyed with the public response to the jubilee, which the queen, in a televised address, called "a humbling experience."
Fears the celebrations would be met with apathy in an anxious, recession-afflicted Britain were unfounded. Enormous crowds greeted the queen over the four-day celebration. More than 1 million people lined the Thames on Sunday for a river pageant, despite dismal weather, and hundreds of thousands packed the Mall outside Buckingham Palace on Tuesday for a glimpse of the royal family.
The decision to have only the core royals - the queen, Charles, Camilla, William, Kate and Harry - appear on the palace balcony, rather than the extended family, gave an image of a stripped-down monarchy for austere times.
Philip's illness, however, provided a note of sadness and uncertainty amid the celebration.
The prince was said Tuesday to be doing well in a London hospital, but he will be 91 on Sunday and is increasingly frail. The queen, at 86, is already Britain's longest-lived monarch. Only her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, reigned for longer.