May 24 2013 Latest news:
Monday, February 6, 2012
The Queen celebrates 60 years of service to the nation and Commonwealth today - her Diamond Jubilee.
For six decades the monarch has been an enduring figure in the life of the country as head of state.
February 6 - Accession Day - will be celebrated simply in Norfolk with a visit to King’s Lynn town hall and the nearby Dersingham Infant and Nursery School.
Her 60 years as queen will be marked by a series of regional, national and international events during 2012, culminating in a four-day long Bank Holiday weekend in June.
A spectacular River Thames pageant featuring a 1,000-strong flotilla and a St Paul’s Cathedral service of thanksgiving are some of the highlights of the weekend.
Britain’s head of state already has the status of being the longest serving monarch after Queen Victoria.
And like her great-great-grandmother, who reigned for more than 63 years, her many years on the throne have helped define an era.
When she acceded to the throne as a young woman following the death of her father, George VI, on February 6, 1952, the country was almost unrecognisable from today.
Britain was still gripped by rationing and the country bore the scars of six years of war.
Five years earlier, during a visit to South Africa, on her 21st birthday - April 21 - she had vowed to serve the Commonwealth.
She said: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
The Queen, now in her 85th year, has remained true to her pledge and dedicated herself to the nation and beyond.
Over the decades Britain has undergone major transformations from technological advances like computers and supersonic flight to developments in society and the political landscape.
During her reign she has seen 11 prime ministers come and go with David Cameron her 12th, while Barack Obama is the 12th US president to hold office over the same period.
The Queen endured her “annus horribilis” in 1992, the year the Prince of Wales separated from Diana, the Duke of York split from Sarah, and the Princess Royal divorced Captain Mark Phillips.
And she faced the criticisms that followed the death of Diana in 1997 when she was accused of remaining too long in Balmoral rather than returning to London - the focus of public grief.
But her Golden Jubilee in 2002 was a momentous occasion and showed there was still a strong feeling of support for the Queen.
Public affection for the monarchy has been boosted over the past year following the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the interest Catherine has generated in the royals.
The Diamond Jubilee is likely to be a high-water mark in the life of a woman who became Queen as a young woman and remained true to her ideals.