This year 2012 sees Queen Elizabeth II celebrate her Diamond Jubilee: 60 years as Queen. Queen Victoria is the only other British monarch to have reached this historic milestone.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, or ‘Lilbet’ to close family, was born in London on 21 April 1926. She was never expected to take the throne as her father was the younger son of King George V. However on the abdication of his brother Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, her father ascended the throne as King George VI in 1936.
Like her parents, Elizabeth was heavily involved in the war effort during the Second World War, serving in the women's branch of the British Army known as the Auxiliary Territorial Service, training as a driver and mechanic. Elizabeth and her sister Margaret anonymously joined the crowded streets of London on VE Day to celebrate the end of the war.
She married her cousin Prince Philip of Greece, later Duke of Edinburgh, and they had four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward.
When her father George VI died in 1952, Elizabeth became Queen of seven Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka).
Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 was the first to be televised, serving to increase popularity in the medium and doubling television license numbers in the UK.
Diamond Jubilee Celebrations
Queen Victoria in front of St Paul’s on her Diamond Jubilee Day
Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 with a grand Diamond Jubilee procession through London which included Royalty and troops from all over the Empire. The parade paused for an open-air service of thanksgiving held outside St Paul's Cathedral, throughout which the elderly Queen remained in her open carriage.
The Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II will include an extra bank holiday on June 5th. With the end of May Bank Holiday being moved to June 4th, this will create a 4 day holiday weekend.
Celebrations over this weekend will include the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on June 3rd, a maritime flotilla of some 1000 boats and vessels led by the Queen's Royal Barge, 'Gloriana'. There will be a Diamond Jubilee concert outside Buckingham Palace on June 4th preceded by a garden party.
Street parties are being planned all over the country. In Britain, these have historically been held to commemorate momentous events, such as VE Day or the Queen's Silver Jubilee, with bunting, trestle tables covered with sandwiches and cakes, and children playing in the street.
London will also host the Olympic Games in 2012 – the opening ceremony of the XXX Olympiad will take place on July 27th.
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