Britain’s Queen Elizabeth made history Wednesday, surpassing her great-great-grandmother to become Britain’s longest-ruling monarch.
The queen marks the day in an understated fashion, making a public appearance at the opening of a Scottish rail line and hosting a private dinner at her Balmoral Castle retreat in the Scottish Highlands.
Meanwhile the British press is publishing tributes to Elizabeth, who has seen the nation through the decolonization of the British Empire, the Cold War, the terms of 12 British prime ministers (and 12 U.S. presidents), the unprecedented divorces of three of her children, the death of ex-daughter-in-law Princess Diana, and the birth of two great-grandchildren who are now in line to the throne.
Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to the queen in a statement Wednesday, calling her a «rock of stability in a world of constant change.» British newspapers are carrying front-page stories about the milestone, while Buckingham Palace has released an official photo of the queen taken by Mary McCartney — daughter of British rock star Paul McCartney.
The soft-spoken but steadfast queen is well-loved by British citizens, having been voted Britain’s most admired woman in a public opinion poll earlier this year. She is seen as having successfully guided the monarchy through troubled times and set the tone in adapting the royal family to the more open, informal ways of the modern world.
Elizabeth, 89, surpasses Queen Victoria, whose reign spanned 63 years and seven months, ending in 1901.
Elizabeth’s ascent to the throne was unexpected. The 25-year-old princess, recently married, was traveling with her husband Prince Philip in a remote part of Kenya in 1952 when her father, King George, died suddenly. She and Prince Philip had stayed the night in Kenya’s Treetops Hotel the night before they got word of her father’s death, giving rise to the legend that Elizabeth «went up a tree a princess and came down a queen.»