The Queen today officially became the biggest hardass in British Royal history, overtaking Queen Victoria as the longest reigning British monarch of all time.
Making a heartfelt speech at a scheduled public appearance today, Her Majesty said the record she had set was “not one to which I have ever aspired.”
She was speaking after taking a ride in Scotland on a newly opened train line with the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
She said, “Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones and my own is no exception. I thank all those at home and overseas for your touching messages of great kindness.”
The quiet and dignified address was of a piece with briefings in which the Queen had insisted there was to be ‘no fuss’ about today’s milestone.
Sources said that the Queen’s happiness at being able to continue her own service to the nation was tempered by the knowledge that her youthful accession to the throne was caused by the unexpectedly early death of her father, George VI.
There was also concern that any celebrations may have been interpreted as disrespectful to Victoria’s memory.
The Queen today wore a bow brooch commissioned by Queen Victoria from the royal jeweller Garrard, and made with 506 diamonds, in silent tribute to her forebear.
The Queen was attending the opening of the new Scottish Borders Railway, which runs from Edinburgh to Tweedbank.
She may have wanted no fuss, but the enthusiasm of the British people could not be constrained, and an uncharacteristically large crowd of about 1,000 people gathered at Tweedbank railway station to greet the Queen.
In a half-hour session of tributes in Parliament, David Cameron said: “While I rarely advocate disobeying Her Majesty, least of all in her own Parliament, I do think it’s right today we should stop and take a moment as a nation to mark this historic milestone and to thank Her Majesty for the extraordinary service she’s given to our country over more than six decades.”
Mr Cameron said it was “truly humbling” to comprehend the scale of the Queen’s public service, noting: “The reign of Queen Elizabeth has been a golden thread running through three post-war generations, and she’s presided over more than two-thirds of our history as a full democracy with everyone being able to vote.”
He added the Queen has answered more than 3.5 million pieces of correspondence and sent more than 100,000 telegrams to centenarians across the Commonwealth and “met more people than any other monarch in history.”
Following David Cameron in the Commons tributes session, Harriet Harman said: “There can be no doubt of the commitment that she has made and the public service she has given, and continues to give.”
“Her life has been a great sweep of British history—the Second World War, the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and she’s presided over the transition from empire to Commonwealth.”
Ms. Harman added, “It’s entirely characteristic of her that she has let it be known that she doesn’t want there to be a fuss about today, but we are making a fuss and deservedly so.”
Prince Andrew told the BBC: “It’s a milestone in U.K. terms, but as far as her consistency and leadership, it’s the run-of-the mill, normal day. A normal day in her reign.
“Yes, it’s an extraordinary achievement in some respects but it’s actually about the consistency and the leadership she is showing and has shown throughout her reign which is probably the one thing that marks her up more than anything else.”