Queen Elizabeth II becomes longest-reigning UK monarch
9 September 2015
Cheering crowds have greeted the Queen in Edinburgh on the day she becomes Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
Bad weather delayed her arrival at Waverley Station, but the 89-year-old Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have now set off on the new Borders Railway.
The Queen will have reigned for 63 years and seven months – calculated at 23,226 days, 16 hours and approximately 30 minutes at about 17:30 BST.
David Cameron said the service the Queen had given was “truly humbling”.
Dressed in turquoise with her trusty black handbag at her side, the Queen smiled and waved to those gathered at the station on the day she passes the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.
- From 11:15 – The Queen and Prince Philip are travelling by train to Tweedbank, in the Borders, with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
- 12:00 – a flotilla of historic vessels, leisure cruisers and passenger boats will take part in a procession along the Thames between Tower Bridge – which will open as a sign of respect – and the Houses of Parliament
- 12:05 – HMS Belfast will sound a four-gun salute
- After 13:00 – Upon arrival at Tweedbank, Her Majesty will formally open the £294m Scottish Borders Railway, after which she is expected to make a short speech
- Follow our live coverage here and on the BBC News Channel.
The exact moment the Queen becomes the longest-reigning sovereign is not known because her father, George VI, passed away in the early hours of 6 February 1952.
Her Majesty’s Milestone
- What other records has the Queen broken?
- Rarely seen pictures of the young Queen
- 63 memories for 63 years on the throne
- World leaders the Queen has outlasted
- Children suggest how the Queen should celebrate
Business in the Commons was postponed for half an hour so MPs, led by Mr Cameron, can pay tribute to the Queen.
The prime minister tweeted: “Over the last 63 years, Her Majesty has been a rock of stability in a world of constant change.
“It is only right that we should celebrate her extraordinary record, as well as the grace and dignity with which she serves our country.”
Mary Francis, one of her aides in the late 1990s, said the very private monarch could also be “great fun”.
“I’ve seen her on one of the last holidays on the Royal Yacht Britannia – the only time I ever saw the Queen wear trousers.
“She let her hair down. She told stories. She had everybody in fits of laughter so she can be very relaxed – at times.”
By BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell
It will be day 23,226 of her reign. The Queen is determined that it should in no way be exceptional.
She has let it be known with some emphasis that she does not want a fuss to be made.
It is evidently viewed as bad form for one long-lived queen to be seen in any way to be celebrating the passing of a record set by another long-lived queen.
But of course that is precisely why 9 September 2015 is notable in its way. Elizabeth II will become the longest-reigning monarch in British history, passing the record set by her great-great-grandmother Victoria.
And in an institution as old as the monarchy, that is a rather striking measure to add to the other memorable features of her reign.
She may not want there to be a fuss but it would seem that a good number of British citizens, to say nothing of those from further afield, believe that her record-breaking reign deserves a little recognition.
Buckingham Palace has released an official photograph to mark the occasion, taken by Mary McCartney in the Queen’s private audience room.
This is where she holds weekly audiences with prime ministers of the day, and receives visiting heads of state and government.
It is understood that Wednesday will be a normal working day for the monarch with no special celebration.
The Queen is taking her traditional summer break at this time of year at her private Scottish home, Balmoral.
Queens of the modern age
- Victoria became queen at 18 while Elizabeth was 25
- Elizabeth II rides in the same coach as Victoria did for the annual State Opening of Parliament
- Both queens were shot at by a lone gunman while out riding near Buckingham Palace
- Elizabeth loves the private royal estate at Balmoral, which was bought by Victoria
- Victoria ruled over an empire of 400 million people. Elizabeth is head of state for 138 million people
Queen Victoria became queen at the age of 18 and ruled for 63 years, seven months and two days.
Queen Elizabeth’s reign has included 12 prime ministers, two more than served under Victoria.
One of those prime ministers, Conservative Sir John Major, rejected any suggestion the Queen had been too passive as head of state: “The monarchy wouldn’t be as popular if they were part of politics – they’re above and beyond it.
“But when the Queen meets her prime minister she has the opportunity to question, to ask, to counsel. Nobody knows and no prime minister is going to tell you exactly what happens at those meetings. So those who say she’s been too passive, how can they possibly know?”
The Queen is Head of the Commonwealth and sovereign of 15 Commonwealth realms in addition to the UK, and the organisation’s Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, sent his congratulations.
“As a symbol of continuity during decades of unprecedented change, and by drawing our people together in their rich diversity, Her Majesty has embodied all that is best in the Commonwealth,” he said.
“With vision and dedication her example has encouraged successive generations of leaders and citizens to embrace the promise of the future.”
Anti-monarchist group Republic said the Queen’s long reign was a reason for reform not celebration.
Chief executive Graham Smith said: “It is now time for the country to look to the future and to choose a successor through free and fair elections, someone who can genuinely represent the nation.”