Queen Elizabeth II, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, set a new record Monday as the first British sovereign to reach their sapphire jubilee, marking 65 years on the throne.
The head of state, now 90, became queen aged 25 upon the premature death of her father, king George VI, in 1952.
As usual on Accession Day, Queen Elizabeth was at her country estate in Norfolk, eastern England.
“The queen is spending the day privately at Sandringham House,” a
Buckingham Palace spokesman told AFP.
The monarch was working on the “red boxes” — the red briefcases of
official government papers — and reflecting on her father’s passing.
On Sunday, she was seen smiling as well-wishers gave her flowers outside church.
Prime Minister Theresa May said the country would join in giving thanks for the queen’s lifetime of service to Britain and the wider Commonwealth.
“It is a testament to her selfless devotion to the nation that she is not
marking becoming the first monarch to reign for 65 years with any special celebration but instead getting on with the job to which she has dedicated her life,” she said.
“She has truly been an inspiration to all of us and I am proud, on behalf of the nation, to offer our humble thanks and congratulations.”
– Coins, stamps and gun salutes –
Despite her reluctance to celebrate publicly, the occasion was being marked in Britain.
Gun salutes were fired at the Tower of London, in the capital’s Green Park and around the kingdom, while the bells of Westminster Abbey, where she was crowned in 1953, rang out.
Sapphire is the 65th-anniversary gemstone and a photograph was reissued of the sovereign wearing a suite of sapphire jewellery from 1850, which was given to her by her father in 1947 as a wedding gift.
“She has very kind eyes with a mischievous glint,” said photographer David Bailey after taking the portrait in 2014.
The Royal Mint marked the anniversary with specially-designed
commemorative coins, ranging from a o5 coin to a o1,000 solid gold coin, which weighs one kilogramme (2.2 pounds) and costs o50,000 to buy.
The o5 ($6.25, 5.80-euro) coins feature the imperial state crown, rotated to show off the Stuart sapphire.
They also bear words from the famous quote in her 21st birthday speech to the Commonwealth back in 1947: “My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.”
Meanwhile the Royal Mail issued a o5 stamp in a sapphire blue colour.
– ‘Difficult to dislike’ –
“It’s very, very difficult to dislike her,” Andrew Gimson, author of “Gimson’s Kings and Queens”, told AFP.
“She’s never answered back, she’s always been above politics.”
Elizabeth became Britain’s longest-serving monarch ever in September 2015, surpassing the reign of her great-great-grandmother queen Victoria, a record she said was “not one to which I have ever aspired”.
She also became the longest-reigning living monarch in the world in October last year following the death of Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Her three big jubilees — at 25, 50 and 60 years — were the silver
(1977), golden (2002) and diamond (2012) jubilees, which were celebrated with major public events.
Besides Britain, she has also been the monarch of Australia, Canada and New Zealand for 65 years.
She suffered from a heavy cold over Christmas, missing two Sunday church services, but is generally in rude health.
However, with her advancing age, Queen Elizabeth is gradually handing over more responsibilities to younger royals.
Her 34-year-old grandson Prince William, second in line to the throne after his father Prince Charles, is stepping down as an air ambulance pilot this year to carry out more royal duties on his grandmother’s behalf.