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Windsor Castle (Photograph courtesy

All the Queen’s Castles: Celebrating a 60-Year Reign

Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee this year, with key events taking place the first week in June. Queen Victoria is the only other English monarch to earn the distinction — and, given Elizabeth’s spirit and good health, she’s poised to out-reign her predecessor. If you’re headed to England, you’ll soak up the spirit simply by walking the streets. But if you have to settle for being an armchair spectator, there are plenty of ways to join in from abroad.

The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on Sunday, June 3 is a spectacle of massive proportion — and one to watch on TV if you’re not in London. More than a thousand ships of all shapes and sizes will float down a seven-mile stretch of the river, with the royal family waving to the crowds from the sparkling Royal barge. That day, thousands of picnics and parties will be held to honor the Queen, including the Big Jubilee Lunch. Then, on Monday, June 4, the stars will really come out, as the feted royal attends the Diamond Jubilee Concert in front of Buckingham Palace, with Elton John, Paul McCartney, and others performing.

In addition, the Royal Family occupies several royal residences — and many more are uninhabited, such as Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London. Here are a few places that will be hosting special Jubilee events and exhibits to celebrate the occasion.

Buckingham Palace
The “Queen” of them all, Buckingham Palace is the Elizabeth II’s official residence in London. Buying a ticket to tour the palace’s state rooms also gets you into the special exhibit in the Queen’s gallery, “Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration,” where you can see a number of the Queen’s personal jewelry on display — including her Coronation Necklace from 1953.

Windsor Castle
The Queen spends weekends and Easter here at the largest occupied castle in the world. This year, visitors to Windsor can see “Sixty Photographs for Sixty Years,” an exhibit showcasing the queen’s public and private life. A mile down the road from Windsor, you can find Frogmore House, where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are buried.

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Kensington Palace. (Photograph by Annie Fitzsimmons)

Kensington Palace
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (a.k.a. Will & Kate) currently live in a small apartment here while they renovate Princess Margaret’s former 20-room apartment. Prince Harry has also moved to Kensington. Don’t miss “Victoria Revealed,” the stunning new exhibit that chronicles Queen Victoria’s life, undying love for Prince Albert, and historic reign.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Queen’s official residence in Scotland presents “Treasures from the Queen’s Palaces” in honor of the Jubilee. Highlights include Rembrandt paintings and Imperial Easter eggs by Fabergé.

Clarence House
The official London residence of Prince Charles and Camilla, Clarence House was home to Her Majesty the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) and The Duke of Edinburgh following their marriage in 1947. Though the residence is usually open to the public from August-October, it will be closed in 2012 (it will resume public openings in 2013).

Sandringham House
Located in Norfolk, England, this is where the Queen and Royal Family spend an extended Christmas holiday each year. Gossip columnists chattered about how Kate had to prepare five outfits for her first Christmas Day at Sandringham — No lounging around in PJs here! The home and gardens are open to the public this year from April- November.

Balmoral Castle
The Queen loves her summertime escape in the Scottish Highlands, and spends August and September here. The castle was built for Queen Victoria and has been passed down through the family (rumor has it that this is where Will and Kate spent their first few days as a married couple here). Prince Charles’ private residence, Birkhall, is also located on the estate grounds. Balmoral is open from April through July.

The Tower of London
As you may have guessed, the Tower of London is unoccupied — but open to the public. Don’t miss the new “Discover the Crown Jewels” exhibit, where you can watch video footage of the Queen’s 1953 coronation (with a three-year old Prince Charles looking on).

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