Dominic Lipinski/PA Images/Getty Bruno Peek
Queen Elizabeth is the guest of honor at next month's Platinum Jubilee celebrations, and there's one man who is tasked with helping her get the party started!
Bruno Peek, the Queen's beacon pageant master, is on duty for his third Jubilee (he also participated in her Golden and Diamond Jubilees!). Peek, 70, is coordinating the international beacon-lighting ceremony across the Commonwealth in tribute to the monarch's 70 years on the throne.
"She's our country, our nation, and our Commonwealth, and I believe she's the person that everybody really looks up to," Peek tells PEOPLE of how the Queen is viewed across the world. "She's got such continuity."
"She's just got that humility. She knows it's not about her. She knows it's about — this is my humble opinion — about her position and the responsibility she's got. I mean, responsibility, even now at her age must be phenomenal," he continues.
"When I saw her sitting in that chapel on her own at Prince Philip's funeral, I think the world must have thought that's what you call a leader. That's what you call a woman of substance."
The Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations will kick off with Trooping the Colour on June 2, followed by a service of Thanksgiving and a fun day at the Derby horse race, a starry pop concert, community lunches across the U.K. and a pageant in London to close out the long weekend on Sunday.
On that first day, beacon master Peek comes into his own. Torches and beacons will be lit, starting with the Pacific nation of Tonga and New Zealand, before heading west through the various time zones across the Commonwealth until they reach the U.K., where the Queen will be feted.
In the U.K., beacons — from big bonfires to gas-fired enclosed blazes — will be lit by Scouts and groups from the Walking with the Wounded charity, which aides former servicemen and women. They will take them to the tops of the four highest peaks in each nation of the United Kingdom.
"We will get this lovely effect coming across the world," Peek says.
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Bruno Peek with Queen Elizabeth
The central beacon -- in fact the Queen's Green Canopy's The Tree of Trees outside Buckingham Palace -- will be illuminated with lights as the Principal Beacon in a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Thursday evening. It will likely be lit by a member of the royal family.
"It's a symbol. The one thing about beacons is that you can bring people of all ages, all nationalities, all religions — it doesn't matter who you are you can bring them together at one moment in time to celebrate an important anniversary," Peek says. "That's why they've always been successful in Jubilees."
Hundreds of years ago, beacons were initially used to send messages around the U.K. to warn of invasion, and intriguingly, they were used during Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.
"That's when they started to be used for celebrations," Peek adds.
During the monarch's Diamond Jubilee in 2012, Peek recalls the Queen leaving the stage as fireworks lit up the sky and comparing the noise to wartime, underscoring the history she has lived and served through.
"As I walked off stage that night, the fireworks were going on and she looked at me and she gave me this lovely smile," Peek recalls. "And she said, 'Do you know what it reminds me — it is the Blitz all over again.'"
But as they set off the beacon in the Mall in London, things didn't go exactly as planned, which is something the royals seem to enjoy as they've become accustomed to clockwork perfection. Queen Elizabeth dropped a diamond into a hole to trigger a motor that then worked the ignition for the flame.
"Once the diamond went down, it should have stopped when it lit the beacon. As I walked her off, she looked at me again with a lovely smile. And she said, 'It's still going 'round, you know.' The diamond should have stopped, but the motor must have got stuck and it was still turning it around," he says.
Geoff Caddick/PA Images/Getty Bruno Peek
He adds, "She's a really cool character. Not fazed by anything. She makes you feel so comfortable in her presence."
Peek, who is a former welder (he's also been a baker, butcher and a builder's laborer!), organizes the entire thing together from his home in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, where he lives with his wife, Moira.
In November 2020, he was asked by the Queen's private secretary Edward Young to coordinate the beacon lighting ceremony again. Peek set a target of 1,500 beacons but has well over 2,000 registered.
"I still get excited when a beacon comes in," he shares.
Across the Commonwealth, the beacon lightings are being organized by young leaders allied to the Queen's Commonwealth Trust. In Canada, Diana Award legacy winner Faith Dickinson, 19, whose Cuddles for Cancer non-profit creates blankets for people with cancer, is lighting one in her hometown of Lakefield College, Ontario.
Accompanying many outdoor festivals (including in the U.S.) will be bands of pipers playing a newly-created piece "Diu Regnare."
In the U.K., Grammy-winning American singer Gregory Porter is going to lead the singing of "A Life Lived with Grace" at one of the main beacons.
PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo Queen Elizabeth
And it will be difficult when the week is over as it marks another record for the Queen he serves.
"I don't mind admitting, I'm gonna shed a few tears that night," Peek says.
It's unlikely there will be another Jubilee for generations.
"She's very caring, very understanding, very polite. And she makes you feel very welcome when you're in her presence. And I just feel that, sadly, when she leaves this earth, there's gonna be a big hole."
As for what the Queen must be feeling as she prepares for the huge celebration in her honor, Peek says: "She must feel an element of — not pride, but how can you ever not think this is amazing?"