Queen Elizabeth II marks historic milestone as longest-reigning British monarch

Today, in a remarkable milestone, HM Queen Elizabeth II (r. 1952- present) has become the longest reigning monarch in British history, breaking the record of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria (r. 20 Jun 1837 – 22 Jan 1901).

Photo courtesy of The British Monarchy Facebook page. This photograph of The Queen by the renowned British photographer Mary McCartney has been released to mark the moment Her Majesty becomes the longest reigning British Monarch, 9 September 2015.

Photo courtesy of The British Monarchy Facebook page.
This photograph of The Queen by the renowned British photographer Mary McCartney has been released to mark the moment Her Majesty becomes the longest reigning British Monarch, 9 September 2015.

Queen Elizabeth II

In ever-humble fashion, and in an enduring testament to her humility, the Queen chose to make only the briefest of remarks to the British people and her subjects around the world acknowledging the occasion. She thanked them for their well-wishes on behalf of her and her consort, HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who has been her husband for 67 years. The monarch and her 94-year old consort, who had been on their summer holiday at Balmoral, took the train from Edinburgh’s Waverley Station alongside Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to the hilly countryside town of Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders, where the Queen symbolically opened a new railroad station.

HM Queen Elizabeth and HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, pictured at her coronation on 2 June 1953.

HM Queen Elizabeth and HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, pictured at her coronation on 2 June 1953.

Photo courtesy of The British Monarchy Facebook page. HM The Queen is greeting by crowds as she and The Duke of Edinburgh travel by steam train to inaugurate the new Scottish Borders Railway, 9 September 2015.

Photo courtesy of The British Monarchy Facebook page. HM The Queen is greeted by crowds as she and The Duke of Edinburgh travel by steam train to inaugurate the new Scottish Borders Railway, 9 September 2015.

Born in 1926 to the then-Duke and Duchess of York, Elizabeth II was not born as the heir to the world’s largest empire, but to the then-reigning King George V’s second son Prince Albert Frederick, known affectionately as Bertie. Her imposing paternal grandfather, not known for his geniality or easiness of manner, referred to her affectionately as ‘Lilibet’, while the young Princess Elizabeth called the King ‘Grandpa England’. George V died in 1936 at the age of 70, after just reaching his Silver Jubilee marking 25 years on the throne.

The then-Duke and Duchess of York (future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) with their eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth II) in 1926.

The then-Duke and Duchess of York (future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) with their eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth II) in 1926.

Elizabeth’s uncle Edward VIII’s self-centered decision to abdicate in December 1936 elevated her father to the throne as King, and his first decision was to take the regnal name George VI, to gloss over his brother’s disastrous short reign and show continuity with his father’s line.

The British Royal Family wave to the crowds of well-wishers on the Buckingham Palace balcony following George VI's coronation as King and Queen Elizabeth's as Queen consort. From left to right are: Queen Elizabeth (Elizabeth II's mother), then-Princess Elizabeth, Queen Mary (George V's widow and George VI's Queen Mother), Princess Margaret (Elizabeth II's sister) and King George VI. 12 May 1937

The British Royal Family wave to the crowds of well-wishers on the Buckingham Palace balcony following George VI’s coronation as King and Queen Elizabeth’s as Queen consort. From left to right are: Queen Elizabeth (Elizabeth II’s mother), then-Princess Elizabeth, Queen Mary (George V’s widow and George VI’s Queen Mother), Princess Margaret (Elizabeth II’s sister) and King George VI. 12 May 1937

The dutiful George VI — who worked diligently to overcome a pronounced stammer- and his immensely popular consort Queen Elizabeth were the public face of British resistance and solidarity in the face of Nazi Luftwaffe blitz bombings of London during the darkest hours of the Second World War. In 1944 the eighteen-year old Princess Elizabeth, the heiress to the throne, took a far-from-safe role in wartime efforts, personally driving British military supply trucks. On Victory in Europe (VE) day in 1945, marking Nazi Germany’s surrender to the Allied forces, the entire Royal Family assembled with Prime Minister Winston Churhill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to share in their people’s joy. It is well-known that, on that night, the future Queen and her sister Princess Margaret donned disguises and went out on the streets of London to be among the British people and share fully in the national rejoicing.

The British Royal Family and Prime Minister Churchill wave joyously to the crowds gathered outside Buckingham Palace on V.E. Day marking the end of World War II in Europe. From left: Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, PM Churchill, King George VI, and Princess Margaret.

The British Royal Family and Prime Minister Churchill wave joyously to the crowds gathered outside Buckingham Palace on V.E. Day marking the end of World War II in Europe. From left: Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, PM Churchill, King George VI, and Princess Margaret.

Marrying her beloved Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark in  November 1947 (Philip was regularly lauded as a modern ‘Adonis’), the beautiful, glamorous heiress to the throne quickly started her own family, with Prince Charles, her own heir, born in 1948. Here is a beautiful, short documentary video showcasing much of the celebrations at Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s royal wedding.

The British Royal Family greet throngs of well-wishers from the balcony at Buckingham Palace on 20 November 1947. From left are: King George VI, Princess Margaret, then-Princess Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth (the future Queen Mother), and Queen Mary (widow of George V and mother to George VI).

The British Royal Family greet throngs of well-wishers from the balcony at Buckingham Palace on 20 November 1947. From left are: King George VI, Princess Margaret, then-Princess Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth (the future Queen Mother), and Queen Mary (widow of George V and mother to George VI).

Queen Elizabeth II's mother-in-law, Prince Philip's mother, was the widowed Princess Alice of Battenberg (1885-1969), a descendant of Queen Victoria. In her widowhood, she became a Greek Orthodox nun (she was raised Orthodox, as a Greek princess). She assisted Jews during the Holocaust, helping many escape from the Nazis. For this she is honoured at Yad Vashem as a 'Hero Among the Nations'. Prince Philip has been quoted saying of his mother, who was, among other things, deaf:

Queen Elizabeth II’s mother-in-law, Prince Philip’s mother, was the widowed Princess Alice of Battenberg (1885-1969), a descendant of Queen Victoria. In her widowhood, she became a Greek Orthodox nun (she was raised Orthodox, as a Greek princess). One can see photographs of the Princess in full nun’s habit at her daughter-in-law’s coronation and also at Elizabeth and her son’s wedding. She assisted Jews during the Holocaust, helping many escape from the Nazis. For this she is honoured at Yad Vashem as a ‘Hero Among the Nations’. Prince Philip has been quoted saying of his mother, who was, among other things, deaf: “I suspect that it never occurred to her that her action was in any way special. She was a person with a deep religious faith, and she would have considered it to be a perfectly natural human reaction to fellow beings in distress.”

Elizabeth II became Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the British Empire (now renamed the British Commonwealth) at the age of 25 early on the morning of 6 February 1952, when her beloved father King George VI passed away at the age of only 56. United in mourning for the man who was their son, husband, and father, Britain’s three living queens — the dowager Queen Mary (George V’s widow and George VI’s mother), Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (George VIs’ widow and Elizabeth II’s mother) and the young Queen Elizabeth II — observed a period of mourning broken only by Queen Mary’s death at the age of 85 in March 1953. One of her last wishes was that her granddaughter’s coronation not be postponed in the event of her death, and so it was on the second of June, 1953 that Queen Elizabeth was crowned as sovereign of the United Kingdom and the Empire as “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas Queen, Defender of the Faith”.

RCOD 227-X01A Queen Elizabeth II Obligatory Credit - CAMERA PRESS/ Karsh SPECIAL PRICE APPLIES - CONSULT CAMERA PRESS OR IT'S LOCAL AGENT. HM the Queen pictured around the time of her accession to the Throne on the 6th February, 1952.

RCOD 227-X01A Queen Elizabeth II Obligatory Credit – CAMERA PRESS/ Karsh SPECIAL PRICE APPLIES – CONSULT CAMERA PRESS OR IT’S LOCAL AGENT. HM the Queen pictured around the time of her accession to the Throne on the 6th February, 1952.

Here is a beautiful prayer from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer for the life and safekeeping of Her Majesty:

Anglican prayer for the life and reign of HM Queen Elizabeth II.

Anglican prayer for the life and reign of HM Queen Elizabeth II.

Pietro Annigoni - Queen Elizabeth II, 1954-5.

Pietro Annigoni – Queen Elizabeth II, 1954-5.

On this glorious occasion, I thought it fitting to share this timeless anthem composed by choralist William Byrd for the first Queen Elizabeth some 450 years ago. Here are the magnificent lyrics:

O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth our Queen to rejoice in thy strength: give her her heart’s desire, and deny not the request of her lips;but prevent her with thine everlasting blessing, and give her a long life, even for ever and ever. Amen.

Congratulations to Her Majesty on her many years of tireless service to Britain and the Commonwealth! Long may she continue to reign! God save the Queen!

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