Today is one of those typically historic but low-level sort of days when The Queen becomes the longest serving British monarch in history, surpassing the magnificent reign of Queen Victoria who reigned for 63 years and 216 days and died in January 1901.
The precise moment that The Queen will break the record is believed to be around 5.30pm this afternoon as her father is thought to have died around 1am in the morning. The fact that her father King George VI died at the relatively young age of 56 demonstrates the fact that for The Queen herself it is not a time for celebration as she has only achieved her long reign due to the early death of her father. Celebrating the fact that she has reigned longer than Queen Victoria, her Great Great Grandmother is still not really what anyone else would do regarding a relatively close family member.
Both Queens share many similarities not the least that they both ascended the throne at a relatively young age. Both were extremely strong minded and conscientious women and The Queen is famous for seeing her role as being one of duty rather than of privilege.
Like our current Queen who has overseen such gigantic technological changes, Queen Victoria too also oversaw great change, many of which are now the foundation for our modern lives including cars (even electric cars), photography with negatives, flushing toilets, London Underground… and the spread of trains in general, radio and telephones. Queen Victoria is immortalised with her own era as well as states, squares, stations, districts and even waterfalls named after the Queen-Empress.
Whereas Queen Victoria was known to stick her nose in to all manner of government affairs, Queen Elizabeth has taken a much lower key approach which ensures that she will not have an era named in her honour but her dutiful and focused approach was exactly what was required to see the Monarchy in some ways stronger than it has been for centuries.
Queen Elizabeth also had numerous places dedicated to her and in her own life has also seen he amount of changes and events from WW2 to men landing on the moon, the internet and technological age.
Change has come even quicker than in Victorian times, the British Empire became the only empire that voluntarily closed itself down to be succeeded with the Commonwealth family of nations which The Queen spends a lot of time working with. The country of Britain and the British people had to cope with a period of relative post war decline and yet the standard of living has improved out of all recognition.
Often it is better to be quiet and steady especially when compared to the messy politics in Britain, America and elsewhere. It may also be one of the secrets to her success in that despite her great age, we know almost nothing about her whereas most of us are very sick of the continual publicity of almost any other public figure or in most cases supposed celebrity.
The Queen is known to want a low-key celebration to mark the day and was persuaded to officially open or rather re-open Britain’s newest train line in southern Scotland today where she will be accompanied by her ceremonial Scottish bodyguards there, the Royal Company of Archers.
Amongst other things, in London Tower Bridge will be raised as a mark of respect and a flotilla of ships will sail down the Thames as HMS Belfast fires a gun salute over the river.
Due to her low-key approach to life, except for her (around 430) public engagements opening train lines, hospitals and attending events each year, The Queen is reputed to be a very hard-working individual behind the scenes. She gets up early in the morning and reads newspapers on national and international news. Then she normally deals with some of the 300 letters which she receives each day whilst others she leaves to her staff.
Next up comes the long-winded task of dealing with letters of state, government papers ands documents from various Commonwealth nations which she is the only person who can sign or grant them approval before meeting her morning guests whether they be honoured scientists, sportspeople, military or religious figures.
It doesn’t happen every day but if there is an awards ceremony then this tends to take place at 11am where the Queen will greet and talk to anything up to 100 people before sitting down to lunch.
Her afternoons are often spent being briefed and learning about the people she will meet in the near future as well as working on various speeches. Whilst often the end of the afternoon will see her meeting with government ministers of the Privy Council, she might also fly by helicopter to a distant engagement or travel overnight on the Royal Train.
AT 6.30pm every Wednesday, the Prime Minister will meet with The Queen to discuss both state, political and personal matters. It is well known that whatever is spoken between the two is never ever spoken about outside the room. Tony Blair once said that apart from his wife, his conversation with The Queen was the only time each week he could be assured that he could speak in totally privacy and confidence.
Of course many evenings The Queen will host banquets and feasts at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle or attend a Royal Gala in London. Despite these very long days, it is often the case that The Queen is the last one to bed as she finishes off her paperwork from the official state red box. Her only official photograph to mark today is of her dealing with these papers below.
In my 41 years I have seen The Queen once when I was 3 years old and then met her very briefly aged 11 at Commonwealth Day in Westminster Abbey where I accompanied my then school teacher who was from New Zealand and together we represented New Zealand at the celebrations.