The Queen’s reign has been punctuated by an unprecedented series of milestones. Her Majesty’s jubilees and birthdays have provided cause for celebration and reflection throughout the remarkable years since her Accession. Such events help reinforce the Sovereign's role as a focus for national identity and unity as people across the Commonwealth come together to mark an important occasion for their Head of State.
The Silver Jubilee
In 1977 The Queen's Silver Jubilee was marked with celebrations throughout the UK and Commonwealth.
The actual anniversary of The Queen's Accession on 6 February 1952 was commemorated in church services throughout that month. The Queen spent the anniversary weekend at Windsor with her family and the full jubilee celebrations began in the summer of 1977.
On 4 May, at the Palace of Westminster, both Houses of Parliament presented loyal addresses to The Queen, who in her reply stressed that the keynote of the jubilee was to be the unity of the nation.
During the summer months The Queen embarked on a large scale tour, having decided that she wished to mark her jubilee by meeting as many of her people as possible. No other Sovereign had visited so much of Britain in the course of just three months - the six jubilee tours in the UK and Northern Ireland covered 36 counties. The home tours began in Glasgow on 17 May, with greater crowds than the city had ever seen before. The tours continued throughout England and Wales - in Lancashire over a million people turned out on one day - before culminating in a visit to Northern Ireland.
Official overseas visits were also made to Western Samoa, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Tasmania, Papua New Guinea, Canada and the West Indies. During the year it was estimated that The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh travelled 56,000 miles.
The climax of the national celebrations came in early June. On the evening of Monday 6 June, The Queen lit a bonfire beacon at Windsor which started a chain of beacons across the country. On Tuesday 7 June, vast crowds saw The Queen drive in the Gold State Coach to St Paul's Cathedral for a Service of Thanksgiving attended by heads of state from around the world and former prime ministers of the UK.
Afterwards The Queen and members of the Royal Family attended a lunch at the Guildhall, in which The Queen made a speech. She declared, 'My Lord Mayor, when I was twenty-one I pledged my life to the service of our people and I asked for God's help to make good that vow. Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgement, I do not regret nor retract one word of it.'
An estimated 500 million people watched on television as the procession returned down the Mall. Back at Buckingham Palace, The Queen made several balcony appearances. Street parties and village parties started up all over the country: in London alone 4,000 were reported to have been held.
The final event of the central week of celebrations was a river progress down the Thames from Greenwich to Lambeth on Thursday 9 June, emulating the ceremonial barge trips of Elizabeth I. After The Queen had opened the Silver Jubilee Walkway and the new South Bank Jubilee Gardens, the journey ended with a firework display, and a procession of lighted carriages took The Queen back to Buckingham Palace for more balcony appearances to a cheering crowd.
The Queen's Silver Jubilee Appeal was set up in 1977, and gave the nation an opportunity to show its affection for Her Majesty and its gratitude for her dedicated service over 25 years. The Queen chose that the Appeal should focus on raising funds to support young people and, in particular, on encouraging and helping young people to serve others in the community. The Queen's Silver Jubilee Trust (now operating simply as The Queen's Trust) has made grants of over £80m, funding projects that help young people help others. Its emphasis is in education and personal development, in and out of school, in low-income communities across the UK. For more information, please visit www.thequeenstrust.org.uk
The Golden Jubilee
A packed programme of events took place in 2002 to celebrate fifty years of The Queen's reign. Six key Jubilee themes shaped events: Celebration, Community, Service, Past and future, Giving thanks and Commonwealth.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh undertook extensive tours of the Commonwealth and the UK, leading to an extraordinarily busy year for the royal couple.
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness visited Jamaica, New Zealand, Australia and Canada as well as every region of the UK, from Falmouth in Cornwall to the Isle of Skye.
The royal couple attended a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister at No 10 Downing Street and a session of the Joint Houses of Houses Parliament in Westminster Hall at which Her Majesty addressed both Houses. They also gave a dinner for representatives of the Armed Services at Windsor Castle and visited the Armed Forces in Portsmouth.
Gratitude, respect and pride, these words sum up how I feel about the people of this country and the Commonwealth - and what this Golden Jubilee means to me.
The central focus for the year was the Jubilee weekend in June 2002 which began with a classical music concert in the gardens at Buckingham Palace. There was a Jubilee Church Service at St George's Chapel in Windsor and a National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral which followed a Ceremonial Procession from Buckingham Palace. Events culminated in a pop concert at Buckingham Palace with performers including Paul McCartney, Bryan Adams, Elton John and Shirley Bassey. The evening ended with a spectacular fireworks display and The Queen lighting the National Beacon, the last in a string of 2,006 beacons which had been lit in a chain across the Commonwealth.
During a lunch at Guildhall, London, on 4 June 2002, Her Majesty made a speech in which she thanked the nation for their support throughout her reign:
I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you - here in Guildhall, those of you waiting in the Mall and the streets of London, and all those up and down this country and throughout the Commonwealth, who may be watching this on television. Thank you all for your enthusiasm to mark and celebrate these past fifty years.
The Queen’s 80th birthday
The Queen turned 80 on 21 April 2006 and celebrated her official birthday on 17 June 2006. A number of events took place to celebrate the birthday, both around Her Majesty's actual birthday on 21 April and her official birthday on 17 June.
A unique Children's Party at the Palace was held at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the magic of books. 2,000 children were invited, and a stage performance – during which The Queen made a cameo appearance – was broadcast live on the BBC.
Trooping the Colour marked Her Majesty’s official birthday as it does every year, but to mark the special occasion, a spectacular flypast and a 'feu de joie' (fire of joy) were added to the traditional celebrations.
Services of Thanksgiving were held at St George’s Chapel in Windsor and at St Paul's Cathedral, and the latter was followed by a lunch at Mansion House in London.
The Queen celebrated with others of her generation who had similarly led a life of service and dedication at a 'Service over sixty' reception hosted by Her Majesty, which celebrated guests over the age of sixty who have made a significant contribution to national life, as did the Help the Aged Living Legends Awards at Windsor Castle. And on 19 April, guests celebrating their 80th birthdays on the same day as her were invited to Buckingham Palace.
The Queen spent her actual birthday meeting the crowds on a walkabout in Windsor before attending a private family dinner at the newly restored Kew Palace, followed by a spectacular fireworks display.
Her Majesty received almost 40,000 birthday messages from members of the public during her 80th birthday year.
Diamond Wedding anniversary
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on 20 November 2007.
Events to mark the anniversary included a Service of Celebration at Westminster Abbey followed by the unveiling of a new Jubilee Walkway panoramic panel in Parliament Square.
The couple also returned to the location of their honeymoon: Broadlands in Hampshire, home of Prince Philip’s uncle, Earl Mountbatten, to recreate the photographs which had been taken 60 years previously.
The Diamond Jubilee
The Diamond Jubilee was marked with a spectacular central weekend and a series of regional tours throughout the UK and Commonwealth.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh travelled as widely as possible across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, visiting every region during 2012 whilst other members of the Royal Family visited all of the Commonwealth realms (countries where The Queen is Head of State) between them. Visits included The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Tuvalu.
The central weekend began with The Queen’s visit to the Epsom Derby on the Saturday. On the Sunday, ‘Big Jubilee Lunches’ were held across the UK: building on the already popular ‘Big Lunch’ initiative, people were encouraged to share lunch with neighbours and friends as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant also took place on the Sunday, with up to 1,000 boats assembled on the Thames from across the UK, the Commonwealth and around the world. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh travelled in the Royal Barge which formed the centrepiece of the flotilla.
On the Monday, a host of famous faces came together to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee against the backdrop of Buckingham Palace for a concert organised by Take That singer and songwriter Gary Barlow for the BBC. Performers included Will.i.am, Stevie Wonder, Grace Jones and Kylie Minogue.
Following the concert, The Queen lit the National Beacon: one of a network of 2,012 Beacons which were lit by communities and individuals throughout the UK, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Commonwealth.
The Diamond Jubilee weekend culminated with a day of celebrations in central London, including a service at St Paul’s Cathedral followed by two receptions, a lunch at Westminster Hall, a Carriage Procession to Buckingham Palace and finally a Balcony appearance, Flypast, and Feu de Joie.
The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Trust was set up to take donations from those wishing to present a gift to Her Majesty in her Diamond Jubilee year. The funds raised have gone towards initiatives such as Queen's Young Leaders, which supports young people across the Commonwealth who are blazing a trail in their communities.
Longest Reigning Monarch
On 9th September 2015 The Queen became Britain's Longest Reigning Monarch.
The day was treated as any other day as The Queen and Prince Philip travelled by steam train from Edinburgh to Tweedbank, where she formally opened the new Scottish Borders Railway, although she did refer to the milestone in her speech saying:
Prince Philip and I are very grateful for the warmth of your welcome on this occasion. Many including you, First Minister, have also kindly noted another significance attaching to today, although it is not one to which I have ever aspired. Inevitably, a long life can pass by many milestones; my own is no exception. But I thank you all, and the many others at home and overseas, for your touching messages of great kindness.
The Queen's 90th birthday
The Queen celebrated her 90th birthday on 21 April 2016 and her official birthday on 11 June 2016, the second day of three days of national celebrations.
Her Majesty's actual birthday was spent in Windsor where she meet well-wishers during a walkabout in the town centre and met others celebrating their 90th birthdays, before unveiling a plaque marking The Queen's Walkway. Later in the evening, Her Majesty, with The Prince of Wales, lit the principal beacon which set in train a series of over 900 beacons across the country and worldwide to celebrate her momentous milestone.
On June 10 2016 The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were joined by members of the Royal Family of a National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral. Prayers at the service were led by people representing aspects of Her Majesty's life and role. Sir David Attenborough read Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond's personal account of growing up to be 90.
On June 11 2016, The Queen's official birthday, Her Majesty was joined by members of her family at The Queen’s Birthday Parade on Horse Guards Parade, followed by an appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with a Flypast,
June 12 2016 saw a huge street party and parade take place on the Mall - The Patron's Lunch - a celebration of over 600 charities and organisations that The Queen was Patron of.
The Duke of Cambridge paid tribute to his 'Granny', speaking of Her Majesty's strong health, relentless energy, her sharp wit and for being at the helm of her family, nation and Commonwealth.
The Sapphire Jubilee
6 February 2017 marked 65 years since The Queen acceded to the throne, becoming the first British Monarch to mark their Sapphire Jubilee.
To coincide with the occasion Buckingham Palace re-released a photograph of Her Majesty taken by David Bailey in 2014. In the photograph, The Queen is wearing a suite of sapphire jewellery given to her by King George VI as a wedding gift in 1947.
As is usual on Accession Day, Her Majesty spent the day privately at Sandringham.